Anthony Albanese has confirmed his government will support a proposal to make “doxxing” illegal, after the private information of hundreds of Jewish Australian artists and creatives were published.
The social media profiles, pictures, and occupation of 600 Jewish-Australians from a WhatsApp group was shared online in a downloadable spreadsheet — which the community said was a “Nazi era” tactic.
Victoria Police has confirmed it is investigating the release of the information, while the Prime Minister said his government took “doxxing” seriously and would work with the parliament to outlaw the practice.
A proposal, put forward by the Jewish community and formally backed by Liberal MP Julian Leeser and independent Wentworth MP Allegra Spender, would add a provision explicitly prohibiting the practice to the section of the federal Criminal Code which covered telecommunication offences.
Mr Albanese confirmed he had asked the Attorney-General to bring forward legislation to deal with doxxing.
“Let’s be very clear, these are 600 people in the creative industries … who had a WhatsApp group … not heavily political, to provide support for each other because of the anti-Semitism we’ve seen,” Mr Albanese said.
“What we’ve seen is these people be targeted. Now these people have a range of views about the Middle East.
“What they have in common is they are members of the Jewish community.
“The idea that in Australia someone should be targeted because of their religion, because of their faith — whether they be Jewish, or Muslim, or Hindu or Catholic – it’s just completely unacceptable.
“That’s why I’ve asked, as well, the Attorney-General to develop proposals to strengthen laws against hate speech, which we will be doing. This is not the Australia that we want to see.”
The Executive Council of Australian Jewry, which has led the push, welcomed Mr Albanese’s support.
“Our call for this legislation was a response to a coordinated and malicious attack on hundreds of members of our community,” president Daniel Aghion said.
“While existing laws outlaw the use of social media platforms to menace and threaten others, the doxxers themselves, who orchestrated a campaign of intimidation, violent threats and horrific abuse, cannot be allowed to get away with it.
“We have called for an end to the impunity and we are grateful that the government has listened.”
Mr Aghion, who had earlier labelled the doxx attack as being “synonymous with the Nazi era”, said the council would work with the government to ensure “the full extent” of the harm caused is understood, “and that the new laws effectively protect Australians from this shameful and dangerous practice”.
Wentworth MP Allegra Spender had earlier called doxxing “an enormous violation of privacy” and “anti-democratic” and suggested she was open to the ECAJ’s proposal.
“(It) has encouraged abhorrent intimidation, abuse, and death threats,” she told NCA NewsWire on Monday.
“I support Victorian police investigations of these actions and consideration of whether further legal protections are necessary.
“But the most important thing we can do is to come together as Australians and make it clear that this sort of behaviour is just not acceptable.
“We are all deeply concerned by the tragic and horrifying events in Israel and Gaza, but recklessly publishing the personal details of fellow Australians to provoke division will not have any positive impact on peace in the Middle East.
“It simply tears at our social fabric and brings enormous distress to fellow Australians.”
Liberal MP Julian Leeser had meanwhile called on Attorney General Mark Dreyfus to “move quickly” to ban doxxing.
“The Attorney-General needs to move quickly to ban doxing, to punish those who do it and those who reshare and distribute the data,” he said.
“I support the call of the ECAJ to reform section 474 of the Criminal Code.
“While this attack is aimed at Jewish Australians, the tactic of doxing 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.”
Independent Goldstein MP Zoe Daniel told NCA NewsWire “personal information and identification should not be able to be used as a weapon”.
“It appears there is a gap in the law and it should be closed,” she said.
A wave of anti-Semitism has washed over Australia since Hamas’ October 7 attacks on Israel.
The war has triggered furious passions in Australia, with multiple pro-Palestine rallies in all major cities across the country.
Some of the rallies have exhibited anti-Semitic sentiments, including a rally at the Sydney Opera House two days after the Hamas attack during which a group of men chanted “f**k the Jews” and “where are the Jews”.
Across October and November last year, the ECAJ recorded 662 anti-Semitic incidents, from death and bomb threat to direct assaults, across the country, a 738 per cent increase on the number of incidents recorded in the previous year.
ECAJ co-CEO Alex Ryvchin said Jewish families were now being forced to have “difficult conversations” about their place in Australia.
“Parents are speaking to their children about not disclosing their Jewishness in public, about hiding Jewish attire and symbols,” he said.
“The fact that in our society, in our time, these conversations are taking place, that one segment of our community feels that unsafe and that vulnerable from other Australians, it’s a shame for our country.”
Alongside legislative reform, the ECAJ wants social media companies to permanently deactivate the accounts of those who use platforms for doxxing.
“Social media is intended to connect individuals and communities and allow the rapid exchange of information,” Mr Aghion said.
“Where accounts are used to threaten the lives and livelihoods of others, the platforms have a duty to act.”