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Anti-Doxxing Bill Passes Senate Easily; Was Inspired by Cov Cath/D.C. Event

Legislation to criminalize a type of online harassment passed the state Senate on Monday by a 30-6 vote.

Senate Bill 182 would make it a crime for a person to use online communications to intentionally disseminate identifying information of a minor with the intent to intimidate abuse, threaten, harass or frighten the minor. The information would include the child’s name, Social Security number, birthday, address, email, telephone number, checking account number, health information, employer, or school.

Such actions would be a misdemeanor but could be enhanced to a felony if physical harm, monetary loss or death resulted in the online communications.

This type of cyber behavior is generally referred to as doxing, slang for “dropping documents.” It is defined as the act of publicly identifying or publishing private information about someone, especially as a form of punishment or revenge.

Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Taylor Mill) said it was time Kentucky criminalize this type of online harassment towards minors after a Covington Catholic High School student was doxed following the posting of a video of him with a Native American protester in Washington, D.C.

“You can disagree with someone,” he said. “You can call that person whatever you want. You can put your own opinion, but you don’t have the right to use online platforms to attempt to harass someone with a real fear of bodily injury because you are giving out their home address, where they go to school and inciting people to go do damage to them, their family and their property.”

McDaniel described SB 182 as a simple, common-sense step to address a growing problem in the era of social media.

Senate Democratic Floor Leader Morgan McGarvey (D-Louisville) said he couldn’t vote for SB 182 because it was too broadly written and would have unintended consequences.

He said he feared a child could be charged with violating the proposed law by posting a picture of a classmate wearing a school t-shirt. McGarvey said the t-shirt would be the equivalent of posting where the child went to school.

“While that might not be the intent of this bill, that is how the bill reads,” he said. “When we are talking about this type of serious matter and offense, we need to be precise with the language. This bill goes too far.”

Sen. Wil Schroder (R-Wilder) said he did not share the same concerns about SB 182.

“It is not just enough to identify a person and school,” he said, adding one would have to use threatening and abusive language. “In addition to that, the minor has to have a reasonable fear of physical injury.”

Schroder sponsored similar legislation during the 2019 regular session. That measure, known as SB 240, passed the Senate by a 26-10 vote but didn’t get a committee hearing in the House of Representatives.

This year’s SB 182 now goes to the House for its consideration.

From the Legislative Research Commission

Photo: Sen. Chris McDaniel speaks about SB 182 (LRC)