SPEECH BY ER DR LEE BEE WAH, MP FOR NEE SOON GRC, AT THE SECOND READING OF THE PROTECTION FROM HARASSMENT (AMENDMENT) BILL IN PARLIAMENT
Mr Speaker Sir,
In Chinese please. 现在的网络，时不时会有人做出看似错误的举动，然后被人“人肉搜索”，个人资料被放上网，然后他们的住家、工作场所，或者电话被人骚扰。
Sir, this Bill criminalises publishing online identifying information of others, such as full name, address, phone number, etc. This is also known as doxxing, and often leads to harassment and harm of individuals in real life. Doxxing is certainly not a foreign concept to Singapore’s cybersphere. There are communities and forums dedicated to “CSI”, a term they use which refers to investigating the victim and publishing his/her personal information online. I am proud that Singapore is the first country to make the act of doxxing a criminal offence.
We have had our own incidents of social vigilantism gone wrong incidents. When netizens tried to identify the perpetrators in a viral video of a young couple bullying an elderly man at Toa Payoh Hawker Centre, they wrongly identified them to be employees of a local bank.
This information, along with the couple’s pictures, were circulated, and people even threatened to boycott the bank. Eventually it was found to be a mistake.
Even if the people are correctly identified, harassing and harming them is never justified. If someone has done something objectionable, we can deal with it through our laws. But we cannot allow people to harass them in real life. That is like taking justice in your own hands, no different from secret societies or prehistoric villagers.
Regardless whether the target of doxxing was innocent or guilty of the allegation against him, the consequences of doxxing can be disproportionate, and may plague the victims for life. There is the saying “The Internet never forgets.”
When information goes viral on the internet, even if you remove the source material, the other people who have seen it would have remembered it and even made copies to share it around. Even when clarifications are made, these may never reach the people who have seen the original mistaken source. Jon Ronson’s book “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed” documents the stories of doxxing victims who continue to live in fear of harassment and prejudice even years after the doxxing happened. Some of them had their employment prospects hurt. Others continue to face harassment. Most of them had not actually hurt anyone or committed crimes to deserve all these. And those innocent people who live with them, including elderly and children, are put through hell too.
Not everyone who gets doxxed is even suspected of doing something wrong.
There are whole accounts dedicated to taking pictures of women without consent and talking about them in a sexual way. For some women, people have found their social media accounts and from there their personal information and harassed them in real life. So, I hope more can be done to educate individuals to be careful with their personal information and photos. This includes having the correct privacy settings for information like home addresses and phone numbers on social media accounts, erasing location information on photos when sharing them on social media, and not sharing compromising photographs and information publicly or with people they don’t know well.
Social vigilantism has been referred to as a perilous form of justice. In fact, I wonder if it can even be considered a form of justice when it simply creates chaos and fear in many cases. I urge all those who truly value justice to consider joining the police force, where you can put your “CSI” skills to good use. There is no need to take matters into your own hands, and risk causing irreversible damage to innocent lives in the process.
What I had spoken is online harassment. Now, I would like to highlight another type of harassment, that is harassment by ex-employer using WhatsApp and emails.
I would like to share with you a real case that my resident is going through. I received an email from my resident asking for help, and subsequently met her at my MPS. She looked to be in her late 20s, and she told me she got a new job through a friend. This company is dealing with blockchain technology and cryptocurrency. So her job is to sell cryptocurrency to as many customers as possible, she needs to do a lot of networking and see customers. On her first day of work, her boss added her into many WhatsApp groups. She felt uncomfortable and wanted to quit but she was persuaded to stay on. Two weeks into the job, she decided to quit, because she found out her boss “hire and fire”. There are a lot of people being fired before she was hired. She sent an email to inform her boss she wanted to quit with immediate effect. Her boss replied “ok”. So she stopped working the following day.
Soon after that, she has been receiving WhatsApp and emails from her ex-boss. The boss said he agreed to her resignation but disagreed with her doing that without giving notice. So she has to pay the company 1 month. She has been working there for 2 weeks and she was not paid. According to her, in her employment contract, during probation period, she needs only to give one week’s notice. She has been bombarded with WhatsApp, emails, and even her personal information and contract was circulated to her ex-colleagues.
Just a few days ago, on 2 May, she received one more email. The boss told her he is taking legal action and in order to do that, he has to deliver a notice to her personally and kept asking to meet her at her home. Mind you, she has left the company for six months.
I would like to ask SMS, is this harassment? Can this bill help victims like my resident? It is painful to see young ladies being harassed and tortured like this. She is not the only one, I have seen several cases like this.
Sir, I support the Bill, and I hope it will put a stop to all these harassment. Thank you.
Watch the speech here
Watch the response by MinLaw here