SINGAPORE - When public spats go viral on social media, some online vigilantes dig up contact information on the people involved and post it on public forums.
Such actions could soon lead to fines or jail, with the proposed introduction of a new offence which criminalises the act of "doxxing" - publishing identifiable information about a person to harass, cause violence or fear of violence to the person.
It is part of a slew of proposed changes to the Protection from Harassment Act (Poha) introduced in Parliament on Monday (April 1) by Senior Minister of State for Law Edwin Tong.
The Act was enacted in 2014 to provide criminal and civil remedies against harassment, and civil remedies for false statements of facts.
"In recent years, there has been an increasing trend of an individual's personal information being consolidated and published online with a view to harassing the said individual," the Law Ministry said in a statement.
"The amendments will prohibit the publication of such personal information where it is done with an intention to harass the victim," it added.
Personal information includes names, e-mail addresses, phone numbers, passwords, photographs or even information about the individual's family, employment or education.
Examples of "doxxing", as outlined by the Law Ministry, include falsely declaring that a person is a "prostitute" on social media and including the person's photos and contact details, or posting a video of a person containing his contact information and calling for others to threaten or attack him.
In situations where personal information is published to cause harassment, alarm or distress, the maximum sentence is a $5,000 fine and six-month jail term.
Where the information is published to cause fear of violence or facilitate violence, or where the perpetrator has reasonable cause to believe that would be so, perpetrators can be fined $5,000 or jailed up to 12 months.
Only individuals can be victims of "doxxing", the Law Ministry said, and not entities such as companies or organisations.
Other changes proposed under the Protection from Harassment (Amendments) Bill include an improved protection order and enhanced protection order regime, which would see that victims are given protection more quickly, and enhanced penalties for unrepentant harassers who breach their protection orders.