Monday , January 25 2021

‘Doxxing’ to be criminalized under changes to the Protection from Harassment Act

SINGAPORE: The act of “doxxing”, which includes publishing someone's personal information such as their photographs, contact numbers or employment details with the intention of harassment, will be criminalized under proposed changes to; Protection from Harassment Act (POHA).

The amendments, tabled in Parliament on Monday (April 1), are intended to improve safety for victims of harassment and untruths, and to make it easier for victims to get answers.

The law was enacted in 2014 to provide a range of criminal and civil remedies against harassment, and civil remedies for false facts statements. Since it came into force in November 2014, the Ministry of Law (MinLaw) says that many people have benefited from the civil and criminal measures it provides, with more than 1,700 prosecutions. over 3,000 magistrates' complaints filed.

Over 500 people have now progressed to Defense Order applications.

However, MinLaw added that he had received feedback from those who have relied on solutions under POHA that court processes can be further simplified and simplified. In addition, new social trends, such as sharing people's personal information to harass them online, and viral spread to harm individuals, have risen in recent years.


MinLaw said there has been a growing trend in recent years that an individual's personal information is consolidated and published online, with the intention of harassing the person. He often said, this arises in the context of online surveillance.

One recent example of online surveillance of such was a dispute involving a Go-Jek driver and a passenger, recorded and posted online. In the video, the passenger could be heard accusing the driver of trying to “cheat him” after he followed a path and passed an Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) pipe to require her to pay a fee.

The viral video went online, with networkers responding with anger in the traveler, some of whom were named and shamed online.

In another recent incident that had also become viral, a BMW vehicle driver had claimed that he had refused to pay S $ 135 for his petrol at a Caltex service station, because he said he had only asked for S $ 10 value. The elderly pump assistant then told the cashier to let the driver pay S $ 10, and he would personally absorb the rest of the cost.

Following the incident, the driver had to file a police report, stating fears for his safety after receiving a number of nuisance calls, SMSes and WhatsApp messages.

READ: Caltex's petrol station is mis-communicated, says the police; BMW driver report police report

READ: Commentary: Is online surveillance the best way to precisely social justice?

The amendments will prohibit the publication of such personal information when it is made with the intention of harassing the victim, or causing violence. Filling a gap in the current laws of Singapore, which only prohibits deliberate harassment if we assume threatening, abusive or insulting form, words or behavior, says MinLaw.

However, posting someone's personal information online with the intention of harassing or causing violence may be considered a form of deliberate harassment, even if threatening words have not been used.

Those carrying out “doing” could face a fine of up to S $ 5,000 or a term of imprisonment of up to 6 months if the intention was to cause harassment, or 12 months if they intended to t cause fear or incite violence.

The reforms will also provide an opportunity for entities who are victims of untruths, MinLaw said, explaining that the reputation of a corporate entity can be ruined in days if untruths about the entity are allowed to go unchecked.

The scope of the orders that can be made in relation to untruths will also be expanded with the improvements, says the ministry, with the courts being empowered to make a variety of orders to protect t victims of falsehoods are better.

Moreover, given the fact that false statements can become viral very quickly, MinLaw added that the courts will also have the power to make interim interim orders to give emergency relief to victims.


As part of the improvements, new Harassment Protection Courts (PHCs) will also be set up, MinLaw said, with the intention of providing a one-stop solution for victims to receive holistic and effective relief.

The new court will be a specialist court with oversight of all criminal and civil matters under POHA. It will also adopt simplified procedures with fast timelines for certain types of applications, including claims for compensation up to S $ 20,000 as well as applications for Defense Orders and Wider Defense Orders.

These simplified procedures will allow claims, Protection Orders and Rapid Protection Orders to be filed using a simple claim form, rather than asking for Original Summons as currently happens.

Neither will the PHC be bound by the rules of evidence in the conduct of civil proceedings.

It aims to hear applications for Wider Protection Orders within 48 to 72 hours of the application, or 24 hours if there is actual or risk of violence.


With the amendments, the protection given by Defense Orders and Rapid Protection Orders will be improved. A defense will be extended to people associated with the victim, such as family members or the victim's children, as they are also often at risk of violence by the harasser, says the ministry.

The amendments will also make it clear that domestic prohibition orders can also be given as part of a Protection Order. The orders of such kind prevent the respondent from entering the applicant's residence or parts of the residence, and will ensure better protection for victims who could live in the same place as u trader, MinLaw said.

Wider Protection Orders will also remain in force until the Defense Order hearing comes to an end, MinLaw added.

Under the amendments, the right to breach Defense Orders and Rapid Protection Orders will be strengthened. For example, a breach of such a law is considered to be arrestable offenses in certain circumstances, such as where there is sustained injury or harassment.

Community orders can also be made for breach of Defense Orders.

There will also be better sanctions in areas where there is a need for more barriers to dealing with harassment-related behavior.

Firstly, the current penalties for crimes against vulnerable people such as those with mental or physical disabilities will be improved, to coincide with those recently introduced by the Criminal Law Reform Bill.

Higher penalties are also proposed to deal with crimes against victims in a close relationship with a partner – whether they are dating or married.

READ: More protection for victims being abused by close partners: Shanmugam

The amendments also explain that entities can be held liable for conduct connected with harassment. MinLaw explained that they had received feedback on institutional harassment against victims, such as from debt collectors.

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