Doxxing will be criminalised under proposed new federal legislation to strengthen personal privacy protections after the names of 600 Jewish Australians in a group chat that discussed Gaza were leaked by Free-Palestine activists.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced on Tuesday he would bring forward a plan to introduce new privacy laws to parliament after Free-Palestine, anti-Zionist activists published a log of the J.E.W.I.S.H Australian creatives and academics WhatsApp group, as well as the names and some details of almost 600 people in the chat. The log link has since been taken down.
The proposed new federal law, one part of a long-running review of the Privacy Act overseen by Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus, will make doxxing a criminal offence punishable by jail time. With bi-partisan support, the proposed legislation is expected to pass.
The legislation will include an exemption for public interest journalism such as reporting on people in positions of power.
“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.
Albanese and MPs across the party spectrum have condemned the mass-doxxing as anti-Semitic and dangerous.
“The targeting of people because they happen to be Jewish is just completely unacceptable,” Albanese said last week.
“It has got to stop. It must stop.”
He said the chat was set up as a support network for Jewish Australian experiencing anti-Semitism in recent months and that its members had “a range of views about the Middle East”.
“What they have in common is they are members of the Jewish community,” he said.
He said he had also asked Dreyfus to develop proposals to strengthen laws against hate speech.
Liberal MP Julian Leeser said in parliament that doxxing needed to be outlawed to protect all Australians’ personal privacy.
“Whilst this attack is aimed at Jewish Australians, the tactic of doxxing can hurt anyone perceived to be involved in Australian public life, from the home addresses of public servants and police to local branch members of a political party, or the details of family members of a public official,” he said.
Free-Palestine activists have said the leak was spurred by a whistleblower from within the group, and have argued the leaked log was in the public interest.
A joint statement published in the 4:00am Substack newsletter on the weekend and written by “First Nations, Palestinians, Lebanese and anti-zionist Jewish people, activist collectives, community leaders, artists, including those targeted by the zionist group chat,” wrote: “There were no addresses shared. There were no phone numbers shared. There were no emails shared. These were deliberately redacted.
“There were no private photographs, and certainly no photographs of children shared.
“Many of us were shocked and disturbed by the contents of the transcript as we read the tactics discussed to target and harm the livelihood and reputation of good and just people, some for simply being Palestinian, and almost all for calling for an end to the genocide against the people of Gaza.”
Writer and activist Clementine Ford, who shared the joint statement and was one of the first people to publicly share the link to the log, criticised the government’s move and told Guardian Australia: “This fixation on rewriting narratives in order to obfuscate the truth is yet another tactic to conceal Israel’s genocide of Palestinian people in Gaza.”
“How many children need to die before Albanese remembers he once had a backbone?”
Aleksandra Bliszczyk is the Deputy Editor of VICE Australia. Follow her on Instagram.
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