Legislation aims to define, protect against 'doxing'

SPRINGFIELD - A bill that would create a clear legal avenue for victims of "doxing" to seek damages and protections against their perpetrators passed unanimously out of a House committee Wednesday.

Doxing, as defined by House Bill 2954, occurs when someone intentionally publishes another person's private information, such as a Social Security number or home address, without consent.

Additionally, for a doxing claim to be successful, the individual would have had to publish that information with the intent of harm. The victim would have to prove he or she faced a "substantial life disruption."

David Goldenberg, Midwest regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, testified at the committee in support of the legislation.

"HB 2954 fills a gap in current Illinois law," Goldenberg said. "It grants doxing victims the ability to seek civil recourse from their attackers including monetary damages and any other form of relief under Illinois law."

Oregon and Nevada have also passed anti-doxing laws, and a similar bill is moving through the Washington state legislature.

The ACLU of Illinois currently opposes the bill, stating that the language needs to be "tightened" to earn the organization's support.

"We do feel this language is overbroad and unconstitutional as drafted," Angela Inzano, policy and advocacy strategist for ACLU of Illinois, said in an interview.

Inzano told the committee the ACLU wants to include amendments that would create exceptions for private information shared with the media, by whistleblowers and in legitimate protests. Additionally, the organization wants to clarify language to protect private communication between two people where the information is not publicly posted, as well as information that is already publicly available.

While the ACLU and legislators involved with the bill are still working together, the bill's sponsor, Democratic Rep. Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz of Glenview, said she's not promising to include all of the ACLU's suggestions.

"The intent is not to limit constitutionally protected speech, and I don't think the language of this bill does that," Gong-Gershowitz said. "The definition of doxing may include some publicly available information that would not necessarily require a hack to access. However, the semi-public nature of this information should not provide a blanket immunity for a malicious actor who wields an individual's personal information as a tool to harass, threaten, intimidate and injure that person."

Gong-Gershowitz added she believes the bill already is "narrowly crafted" but said she's willing to continue conversations with ACLU Illinois.

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