When revealing a person’s identity becomes a crime: what is considered doxxing?

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SINGAPORE: Online vigilantes have taken to town after a dramatic video of a woman ripping a license plate off a car at Tuas Second Link went viral last month.

They discovered the names of the woman and her husband and their place of work. They also found her son’s name and posted all the information online, where it remained accessible as of Friday (August 5).

Such an identity hunt, known colloquially as “CSI”, is not uncommon. But the lawyers said those behind the news may be engaging in doxxing, a particular form of online harassment that became illegal in Singapore in January 2020.

A report has been filed into the alleged doxxing of the woman and her family, a Singapore Police (SPF) spokesperson said.

Doxxing refers to posting information that identifies a person or someone related to them and also aims to harass, threaten or incite violence against them, lawyers told CNA.

Doxxing can also be established if there is knowledge or reasonable cause to believe the information may facilitate violence, said attorney Sanjiv Vaswani of Vaswani Law Chambers.

Besides the more common personal information such as name, date of birth, residential address, email address, telephone number and ID card number, other identifying information includes the place of work or education, signature and family history.

WHAT IS DOXXING?

What is written accompanying a social media post or in a comment can be taken into account in determining whether it is considered doxxing, the lawyers said.

Attorney Adrian Wee of Characterist LLC said a message could be considered incitement to violence if it said something like, “Everyone is watching this person. We should teach them a lesson.”

How a video is edited can also matter. Mr. Wee, who is also a senior lecturer at the Lee Kong Chian School of Business at Singapore Management University, gave an example of a video featuring an emoji.

“If there’s an emoji that’s (of) a guy beating up another guy…then that could potentially be considered incitement to violence,” he said.

Quahe Woo & Palmer’s attorney, Joyce Khoo, said a person would engage in doxxing if, for example, they saw someone wearing a t-shirt identifying a school, found the party’s personal information like photographs and contact details and published information about his discovery online. harass, threaten or facilitate violence.

“It would inadvertently lead to that particular person being identified, and then afterwards there might be all this harassment, people trying to track that guy down on Facebook or Instagram,” she said.

An “interesting question” arises in a situation where a company makes a statement to the media after a post by its employee engaging in bad behavior goes viral online, Vaswani said.

“Where there are calls for violence against someone online and although knowing this a business identifies that person as their employee, that business may in fact be held liable for doxxing.”

Police investigated less than 60 cases a year of alleged doxxing in 2020 and 2021, the SPF spokesperson said.

From January to April this year, the number was less than 10.

The penalty for posting personal information for the purpose of harassment, alarm or distress is a maximum penalty of S$5,000 and a six-month prison term.

Where information is published to instill fear of violence or facilitate violence, or where the author has reasonable grounds to believe that this would be the case, offenders may be fined up to S$5,000 and to imprisonment for up to 12 months.

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