Proposed Bill In The U.S. Congress Will Make Doxing A Federal Crime

Cross-posted from We Hold These Truths To Be Self-Evident

In case you’re unfamiliar with doxing, it is term that describes using the internet to search for and obtain the personal information of others, and to post it publicly on the internet with the intent to threaten, intimidate, harass or incite the commission of a crime of violence against a person or a member of the immediate family of that person.

Some states consider doxing to fall under stalking laws and include an intent to cause the person doxed extreme emotional distress.  In fact, in some prosecuted cases of cyberstalking, the victim’s personal information can be the personal knowledge of the perpetrator who posts it publicly on the internet for a malicious purpose.

The personal information that is publicly posted does not have to be accurate.  In fact, it can be for someone totally different, which can then lead to civil lawsuits for defamation and identity theft. Doxing has become a serious problem in the United States.

There is a current federal statute for protecting individuals performing certain official duties from having their personal information and that of their families made publicly available.  The statute is 18 U.S.C. § 119.  It makes it a federal crime to make publicly available the Social Security number, home address, home phone number, mobile phone number, personal email, or home fax number of, and identifiable to, restricted personnel.

The federal statute defines restricted personnel as a grand or petit juror, witness, officer in or of any court of the United States, or an officer who may be, or was, serving at any examination or other proceeding before any United States magistrate judge or other committing magistrate; an informant or witness in a Federal criminal investigation or prosecution; or a State or local officer or employee whose restricted personal information is made publicly available because of the participation in, or assistance provided to, a Federal criminal investigation by that officer or employee.  Family members are also protected under the statute.

I’ve often wondered why our federal government does not seem to believe that all citizens want the same protection and the right to be let alone.  Maybe that will change soon.

Representatives Katherine Clark (D-MA), Susan Brooks (R-IN) and Patrick Meehan (R-PA) have introduced H.R. 3067.   It is titled the Online Safety Modernization Act of 2017.  If passed, it will criminalize doxing as a federal crime.

The text for H.R. 3067, in pertinent part, states that the bill is to amend Title 18 of the United States Code, to establish certain criminal violations for various aspects of harassment using the interstate telecommunications system.

Those found guilty of publishing the personally identifiable information of another with intent cause harm, threaten, or place any person in reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury, intimidate, harass, or incite or facilitate others to do the same, shall be fined and/or imprisoned for up to 5 years. Along with doxing, it makes sextortion and swatting hoaxes federal crimes.

The Online Safety Modernization Act is supported by Facebook, the National District Attorneys Association, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, the Anti-Defamation League, the National Network to End Domestic Violence, the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, Legal Momentum, Stop Online Violence Against Women, the National Council of Women’s Organizations, the Women’s Media Center, the FBI Agents Association, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

To contact your U.S. Senators to support H.R. 3067, you can find their contact information at this link.

To contact your U.S. Representative to support H.R. 3067, you can find their contact information at this link.

Press Release;

Washington, D.C.  – Today, Congresswoman Katherine Clark (MA-5), Congresswoman Susan Brooks (IN-5), and Congressman Patrick Meehan (PA-7) introduced the bipartisan Online Safety Modernization Act. The legislation is a roadmap for Congress to address online safety and combat the rise in online crimes that disproportionately affect women and girls. Victims have had their private addresses released by online mobs threatening rape and murder (doxxing), have had their private photos published without permission (non-consensual pornography), or used against them in exchange for sexual activity or money (sextortion), and have even been subjected to raids by armed SWAT teams responding to fake emergencies (swatting). As federal policies have failed to keep up with online abuses and local police face a lack of resources, victims often feel they have no choice but to take drastic action like fleeing their homes, spending enormous sums on protection, and leaving job opportunities. The Online Safety Modernization Act enacts penalties for sextortion, doxxing, non-consensual pornography, and swatting, and gives local and federal law enforcement resources to investigate and prosecute online crimes and severe online threats.

“Like every parent, I spend a lot of time thinking about my kids’ safety, whether they’re out with their friends or navigating their lives online,” said Clark. “Unlike parents before us, today we have to worry about things like sextortion, revenge porn, online threats, and online predators. We need to make sure that our policies keep up with the realities of our connected world. The Online Safety Modernization Act ensures that our laws are updated to provide protections for the millions of Americans who are online right now, navigating their personal and professional lives.”

“As our world grows increasingly more connected and mobile, sexual abuse, harassment, and extortion are also moving online, and unfortunately, our laws have failed to effectively protect victims of these crimes, leaving them feeling trapped, ashamed, and desperate,” Brooks said. “The fact of the matter is, the laws governing sextortion, doxxing, and swatting were written when computers didn’t fit in our pockets, phones were plugged into walls, and texting required a stamp. In order to punish and prosecute these predators to the fullest extent of the law, we must bring our laws into the age of smartphones and SnapChat. The Online Safety Modernization Act gives local and federal law enforcement officials, prosecutors, and victims the tools they need to go after these sexual predators and help victims seek justice.”

“The growth of the internet and the proliferation of smart phones have meant that harassment and stalking increasingly takes place online, but our laws have been slow to keep pace with this new generation of predatory behavior,” said Congressman Meehan. “Swatting, sextortion, and doxxing have real-world consequences and the perpetrators should be held accountable for their actions. This legislation empowers law enforcement to crack down on these activities, protects victims, and will ultimately make the internet a safer place to connect with the world around us.”



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