The Australian government said Tuesday it will prohibit doxxing, the malicious and non-consensual release online of an individual’s personal or identifying information, after pro-Palestinian activists published personal details of hundreds of Jewish people in the country.
Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus, who is Jewish, said the proposed laws would involve issuing take-down notices to social media platforms and imposing fines.
The government’s proposal comes in response to news reports last week revealing that pro-Palestinian activists had published the names, images, professions and social media accounts of Jewish people working in academia and the creative industries.
Pro-Palestinian activists distributed a nearly 900-page transcript leaked from a private WhatsApp group created last year by Jewish writers, artists, musicians and academics, Nine Entertainment reported. The transcript was accompanied by a spreadsheet of the names and other personal details of almost 600 people who are allegedly members of the group.
Author Clementine Ford, one of several activists who posted links to the leaked information, purported that publishing the personal information of the Jewish people in the WhatsApp group should not be labeled as doxxing.
“This chat demonstrated extremely organised moves to punish Palestinian activists and their allies,” Ford wrote on Instagram.
Dreyfus said the proposed laws would strengthen Australian protections against hate speech, but provided few details about how they would work.
“The increasing use of online platforms to harm people through practices like doxxing, the malicious release of their personal information without their permission, is a deeply disturbing development,” Dreyfus told reporters.
“The recent targeting of members of the Australian Jewish community through those practices like doxxing was shocking but, sadly, this is far from being an isolated incident,” he added.
There has been a rise in reports of antisemitism in Australia following Hamas’ Oct. 7 terrorist attack against Israel and the subsequent military retaliation from Israeli forces.
The Australian government’s online safety watchdog defines doxxing as the “intentional online exposure of an individual’s identity, private information or personal details without their consent.”
Dreyfus said his definition of doxxing is the “malicious release, publicly, of personal information of people without their consent.”
“We live in a vibrant multicultural community which we should strive to protect,” Dreyfus said.
The government’s proposal to outlaw doxxing received support from the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, which represents Australia’s Jewish community.
“We look forward to working with the government to ensure the full extent of the harm caused is understood and that the new laws effectively protect Australians from this shameful and dangerous practice,” council president Daniel Aghion said.
Monash University cybersecurity expert Nigel Phair praised the idea of a law prohibiting doxxing, although questioned how it could be enforced.
“It’s really difficult for policing agencies to police such laws when, really, they just don’t get the access to the data. Really, it’s the social media companies who bear the responsibility,” Phair told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
“Our law enforcement agencies, dare I say, are already swamped with online investigations with the amount of crime that we have online. Adding this to it without any additional resources and the really integrated work with the social media platforms — it just won’t do much,” Phair added.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.