Federal Government announces criminalisation of doxxing and also bringing forward reform of the Privacy Act 1988

February 13, 2024 |

The Government has been spurred into expediting reform of the Privacy Act 1988 in response to the doxxing of details of members of a Jewish Whats App group. Those details found their way into the hands of activists and have been posted on line. According to the Sydney Morning Herald’s ‘Doxxing’ laws to be brought forward after Jewish WhatsApp leak doxxing will constitute a criminal act and that legislation will be introduced with the other Privacy Act reforms. When that will happen is not specified. Attorney Dreyfus stated that the anti doxxing provisions will be made through the eSafety Commissioner but as part of the “civil reforms to the Privacy Act”. The Guardian covers the story in Albanese government to propose legislation to crack down on doxing. The Australian covers it with Albanese vows to crack down on doxxing. The Attorney just did a doorstop on doxxing where he suggested that provisions criminalising doxxing would be brought foward. 

The transcript provides:

ATTORNEY-GENERAL MARK DREYFUS KC MP: The Albanese Government is committed to protecting the safety of Australians, and stronger privacy protections for individuals are essential. 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. 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. We live in a vibrant multicultural community which we should strive to protect. No Australian should be targeted because of their race, or because of their religion. The Albanese Government committed last year to stronger protections for Australians through reforms to the Privacy Act. We’ve had a long running review to the Privacy Act and late last year I announced the Government’s response to that review of the Privacy Act. The Prime Minister has asked me to bring forward, as part of that set of reforms to the Privacy Act, some new provisions to deal with this practice of doxxing, with the malicious use of people’s personal information without their consent. And we’ll also be bringing forward provisions, and the Prime Minister has asked me to do this as well, some provisions that strengthen current laws that deal with hate speech. The work will complement work that is already underway right across government, as we seek to strengthen online safety for all Australians. It’s work that my colleague, the Minister for Communications, Michelle Rowland has also been working on.

REPORTER: Given that accounts can hide behind dishonest profiles when committing acts of doxxing. How will these measures actually be affected? Will social media companies be compelled to expose those who release private information?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: We’ve already got some provisions through the eSafety Commissioner that enable online platforms to be required to take down. We’ve seen the eSafety Commissioner not only sending takedown notices, but imposing penalties. That’s one of the measures that we’re certainly going to be looking at in relation to this practice of doxxing.

REPORTER: Can you define doxxing, in terms of which attributes it would be unlawful to maliciously reveal? Is it just identity, race and religion does it extends to other protected attributes, like sexuality and gender identity?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Doxxing is a broad term but I think it’s generally understood to be the malicious release publicly of personal information of people without their consent. That takes different forms. It’s clearly got different malicious purposes, depending on the context. But that’s something that we’re going to have to deal with when we prepare this legislation.

REPORTER: These group chats were released to the Nine papers originally where they were published. Would that leaked information and the group chat messages come under doxxing under this legislation?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: We see that with massive changes in digital technology that is throughout our society, that the opportunities for invasions of privacy, the opportunities for the use of people’s personal information without consent, the opportunities for really malicious actions to take place, affecting hundreds of thousands of people very, very quickly, has been made possible. Legislation has struggled to keep up. That’s part of the reason behind this reform of the Privacy Act that we’ve embarked on. And clearly, all of those things are needing to be looked at.


REPORTER: Can I clarify, bulking up the hate speech laws, that will be contained in the Religious Discrimination Bill? Will it? And when can we expect to see that?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: We’ve already been working on the hate speech provisions. It is our intention to bring them forward with the Religious Discrimination Bill that we plan to bring forward. The Prime Minister has asked me to accelerate the work on the hate speech part of that package.


The Australian article provides:

Anthony Albanese has pledged to bring forward legislation criminalising doxxing after more than 600 Jewish creatives had their details leaked, amid warnings the deliberate online targeting and harassment of Australian Jews was akin to “digital terrorism.”

The Prime Minister also on Monday expressed “very deep concerns about the idea of an Israeli military operation” in the Southern Gaza city of Rafah where more than one million people are sheltering.

Responding to the threatened ground invasion by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Mr Albanese and Foreign Minister Penny Wong joined with US President Joe Biden in urging Israel to protect innocent civilians.

“Israel must listen to the international community,” Mr Albanese told 2GB radio. “I have no time for Hamas. I unequivocally oppose the terrorist acts that occurred on October 7, but we cannot have disregard for innocent life.

“There are more than a million civilians who are sheltering in and around Rafah. Israel has a responsibility, as a democratic nat­ion, to show care in relation to these innocent civilians.”

Appearing before a Senate estimates hearing on Monday, Home Affairs officials were unable to say why it took nearly four months for the government to declare the October 7 massacre of Israelis an act of terrorism.

Liberal MP Julian Lesser says he cannot remember a time since the events of October 7 where almost every day there is a “new incident of intimidation against Jewish Australians”. “Australia has been a wonderful country for people, it’s been a particularly wonderful country for Jewish Australians … but More

Mr Albanese did not formally designate the attack as a terrorist act until February 2. The delayed declaration slowed financial assistance through the Victim of Terrorism Overseas Payment under the Social Security Act for Australian Jews who lost loved ones in the attack.

A departmental official said Home Affairs needed to consult with Foreign Affairs before providing advice to Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil, who then made a submission to the Prime Minister.

Jewish leaders welcomed Mr Albanese’s commitment to swiftly push through laws to criminalise doxxing – the malicious publication of people’s identifying information – saying existing laws had failed to protect hundreds of people from “co-ordinated and malicious” attacks.

Mr Albanese said he had directed Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus to bring forward the new laws in response to the Privacy Act review, and expressed concern about a rise in anti-Semitism following Hamas’s massacre of Israelis on October 7.

“Let’s be very clear here: these are 600 people in the creative ­industries, people like Deborah Conway, the singer, people who are in the arts and creative sectors, who had a WhatsApp group … to provide support for each other because of the rise in anti-Semitism that we’ve seen,” Mr Albanese said. “What we’ve seen is them being targeted.

“The idea that in Australia someone should be targeted because of their religion, because of their faith, whether they be Jewish, or Muslim, or Hindu, or Catholic, or Buddhist, is just completely unacceptable.”

Sky News host Rita Panahi says the “feral left” have become “hateful and hostile” in the suburb of Fitzroy leading to “members of the Jewish community fleeing”. Ms Panahi says Fitzroy is the “wokest suburb in Australia”. “As reported in Friday’s Herald Sun – Jewish residents of the inner More

Executive Council of Australian Jewry president Daniel Aghion said: “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.”

A coalition of federal parliamentarians that includes independent MPs Allegra Spender and Zoe Daniel, Coalition MP Julian Leeser and Labor MP Josh Burns has been calling on Mr Albanese to criminalise doxxing and consider further protections.

Anti-Defamation Commission chair Dvir Abramovich said the deliberate online targeting and harassment of Australian Jews was akin to “digital terrorism” that had now reached fever pitch, and it was imperative that governments stepped in to protect victims.

“It is the duty of our nation’s leader to protect every community from racism and malicious vilification and this announcement is to be commended,” he told The Australian.

“The Jewish community, since October 7, 2023, has felt very alone and under siege; with anti-Semitism spiralling out of control, this law is urgently needed.”

Home Affairs on Monday said it had approved visas for more than 2275 Palestinians to travel to Australia since October 7. There were 2127 visitor visas and 148 migration and temporary visas approved for Palestinians after the attack until December 31.

A Home Affairs official said some of the visa applications were approved within an hour, for applicants who were “well known to us”. He said 160 applications had been rejected in the same period.

The department prioritised visas for applicants who were already on track to be approved, the official said.

Hamas terrorists slaughtered 1200 Israelis on October 7 and took 250 hostages back to Gaza.

With Israel’s offensive against Hamas now approaching a critical stage, Senator Wong said Israel must exercise special care in relation to civilians: “Not doing so would have devastating consequences … and cause serious harm to Israel’s own interests.”

The SMH article provides:

Personal privacy will be protected under new federal laws that criminalise “doxxing” after Prime Minister Anthony Albanese vowed to bring forward the changes to counter activists who published the names and details of hundreds of Jewish people.

Albanese condemned the release of identifying information – including a photo gallery and social media details – and promised tougher laws to stop the malicious publication of private information.

In a dramatic shift in the scope and speed of the federal action, the government plans to put urgent privacy laws to parliament while also developing stronger laws against hate speech after months of dispute over the war in the Middle East.

The plans respond to anti-Zionist activists who published the names and details of almost 600 Jewish writers, artists and academics last week, prompting some pro-Palestinian writers to spread the leaked details before others denounced the move.

The new federal law will make it a criminal offence to engage in doxxing and similar harassment, while making broader changes in response to long-running review of the Privacy Act overseen by Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus.

The changes will include an exemption for public interest journalism such as reporting on public figures.

“I’ve asked the Attorney-General to bring forward legislation in response to the Privacy Act review, including laws that deal with so-called doxxing, which is basically the malicious publication of private information online,” Albanese said on radio station 2GB on Monday.

He singled out the treatment of the 600 Jewish people, including singer Deborah Conway, as a major concern because the individuals had joined a WhatsApp group that was not heavily political and sought to provide support to each other because of the rise of anti-semitism.

“And what we’ve seen is them being targeted,” Albanese said.

“Now these people have a range of views about the Middle East. What they have in common, though, is the fact that they’re members of the Jewish community.

“And the idea that in Australia, someone should be targeted because of their religion, because of their faith – whether they be Jewish, or Muslim or Hindu or Catholic or Buddhist – is just completely unacceptable.

“And that’s why I’ve asked, as well, the Attorney-General to develop proposals to strengthen laws against hate speech, which we will be doing. This is not the Australia that we want to see.”

Executive Council of Australian Jewry president Daniel Aghion welcomed the move and said the stronger law was needed to deal with doxxing.

“While existing laws outlaw the use of social media platforms to menace and threaten others, the doxxers themselves, who orchestrated a campaign of intimidation, violent threats and horrific abuse, cannot be allowed to get away with it,” he said.

“We have called for an end to the impunity and we are grateful that the government has listened.”

The federal plans leap ahead of state moves on hate speech after the controversy over a pro-Palestinian gathering at the Sydney Opera House last October and a decision by NSW Premier Chris Minns to seek an independent review of the hate speech provisions of state criminal law.

The federal government was already committed to an overhaul of the Privacy Act to create a new right to privacy – also known as a “privacy tort” – but the prime minister’s comments accelerate the process and emphasise the need to criminalise doxxing.

On hate speech, Dreyfus had already promised new measures to protect people from hate speech and vilification based on their faith in a religious discrimination law later this year, but the prime minister’s comments also signal stronger action.

Israel says two hostages rescued from Gaza

Israel said it rescued two hostages from southern Gaza as it launched fresh airstrikes on Rafah.

Dreyfus told this masthead he would introduce the law against doxxing as soon as possible.

“The recent targeting of members of the Australian Jewish community through doxxing was shocking, but sadly a far from isolated event,” he said. “No Australian should be targeted because of their race or religion.”

The votes in parliament on the privacy safeguards and the hate-speech law will depend on the details of the two separate initiatives after years of dispute over the balance between the right to privacy, the protection from vilification and the right to free speech.

Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act makes it an offence under federal law for someone to “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate” another person on the basis of their race or ethnic origin, but the Liberal Party sought to scale back this protection a decade ago because it sought to champion free speech.

But Opposition Leader Peter Dutton signalled support for tougher federal laws last Friday when he expressed his concern at the doxxing during a visit to Melbourne.

“Frankly, if that is not something the police are looking at now, then I believe they should urgently look at it,” he said.

“If the laws need to be beefed up then they should, because it shames me to say that people of Jewish faith in our country at the moment, many of them living with great angst, and we’ve seen a situation where security has been bolstered at Jewish schools at synagogues, at supermarkets, that has no place in our country in the 21st century at all.”











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