The internet makes it easier for victims of crime to call out their perpetrators, for example by publishing identifying information online and warning others to beware. But there is an ever-present danger that the internet brigade takes on a mind of its own, and examples were cited in Parliament of doxxing behaviour gone too far. This was a key impetus that led to amendments being passed to the Protection from Harassment Act (POHA).
Suang Wijaya had previously commented on a case which was described in the 7 May 2019 Parliamentary session as having “fallen through the cracks”. This involved a victim who discovered edited photographs of herself on a blog with pornographic content, and who may have benefitted had the laws against doxxing been in force then.
In the age of the internet, it is not always easy to differentiate between perpetrator and victim, and one can turn into the other fairly quickly. In this article by TodayOnline, Chooi Jing Yen puts his finger on when exactly the line is crossed:-
… a key requirement for doxxing is an intention to cause harassment, distress or alarm. The pure act of publishing identifying information, without more, would probably not fall foul of the law. Unless, of course, the intention behind doing so was to cause harassment, distress or alarm to the person whose details have been published.
There can, however, be a fine line between a genuine intention to warn others and a nascent intention to harass or incite potential violence
We should be alive to the possibility of victims engaging in tit-for-tat behaviour, which the law generally does not encourage. The Singapore courts take a dim view of vigilante justice, and on one view the new laws may be seen as a message from Parliament that such behaviour is not encouraged.
Victims of sexual harassment or assault may seek orders in court that the perpetrator take down the posts, undertake to refrain from repeating their actions and issue an apology on the same medium.