The internet is often filled with hate speech and trash talking and while most of these behaviors are covered by the First Amendment, the California legislature has taken steps to balance the public’s right to free speech with their right to privacy and safety. That’s why activities such as criminal threats, hacking, swatting, online stalking and revenge porn are all against the law. Similarly, doxing (the act of sharing someone’s personal information so a third party can harass or harm that person) is also illegal. If you’ve been accused of doxing someone, it is critical you call a cyber crime attorney as soon as possible.
California’s Anti-Doxing Law
Known as “electronic cyber harassment” under California law, doxing is the act of making someone’s address, phone number or other personal information to encourage someone else to harass or stalk the victim. It is different than online stalking because instead of harassing or stalking the person yourself, the defendant expects someone else to do the stalking or harassing.
In order to be guilty of the crime, you must 1) share the personal information of someone else 2) without their consent 3) with the intent to cause that person to reasonably fear for his or her safety or the safety of his or her family 4) for the purpose of causing him or her unwanted physical contact, injury or harassment 5) and you knew the information would likely result in someone following through with the unwanted physical contact, injury or harassment.
For example, if you are an advocate for childhood vaccinations and posted the name and address of a prominent anti-vaccine advocate on a message board for vaccine supporters and said that you hoped someone would “teach her a lesson for risking children’s safety,” you would be guilty. On the other hand, if you were in the same position and instead posted the mailing address and phone number of a politician who was being lobbied by anti-vaccine advocates on the message board, writing “let’s remind her that anti-vaxxers are in the minority,” this activity is entirely legal.
It’s important to emphasize that no actual harassment needs to occur for the defendant to be guilty. Instead, the intent of the person who posted the material is all that matters.
Penalties for Doxing Someone in CA
California’s cyber harassment law is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail, probation and $1,000 in fines. Fortunately, you can fight these charges. Defenses may include the fact that there is insufficient proof that you were the one who actually posted the information, the fact that you did not intend for the person to be harassed or threatened, that the alleged victim actually agreed to your sharing their information, or that you did not reasonably expect anyone to act on the information you posted.
If you have been accused of posting someone’s personal information in a doxing attempt, please call (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free initial consultation with Peter M. Liss. His office offers free parking and is located directly across the street from the Vista courthouse and jail.
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