PM backs ECAJ call for anti-doxxing laws

Members of the leaked Whatsapp group have been targeted, with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese moving to criminalising doxxing.

Conversations from a private Jewish Whatsapp group were leaked. Photo: Dreamstime
Conversations from a private Jewish Whatsapp group were leaked. Photo: Dreamstime

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s announcement that his government will support a proposal to criminalise “doxxing” has been welcomed by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ).

This week Albanese condemned the public leaking of conversations from a private WhatsApp group made up of 600 Jewish creatives, with the incident prompting him to ask the Attorney-General to bring forward legislation in response to the privacy act review.

A list of people in the group, including photos and links to their social media accounts, was also made public.

“This is not the Australia that we want to see,” Albanese said.

“These are 600 people in the creative industries … who had a WhatsApp group. Not a WhatsApp group that was heavily political, a WhatsApp group to provide support for each other because of the rise in antisemitism that we’ve seen.

“And what we’ve seen is them being targeted.”

Doxxing is commonly defined as publishing a person’s private details with the intent of causing harm, such as harassment.

PM Anthony Albanese addresses Federal Parliament. Photo: Lukas Coch/AAP Photos.

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said the government is committed to protecting the safety of Australians, “and stronger privacy protections for individuals are essential”.

“The recent targeting of members of the Australian Jewish community through those practices like doxxing was shocking,” Dreyfus said.

“We live in a vibrant multicultural community which we should strive to protect. No Australian should be targeted because of their race, or because of their religion.”

After ECAJ led the push to get the laws changed, president Daniel Aghion said he is grateful the government has listened.

“We look forward to working 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,” he said.

MP Josh Burns said the “activism” seen on social media is dangerous and has rightly been condemned by Albanese.

“Clearly there is a gap in the management of of social media platforms and the law, because the situation that he occurring unacceptable,” Burns said.

“Which is why I’m proud that we announced that we’ll bring forward legislation that will protect the privacy of  Jewish community members ir any Australian, as well as protecting people from doxxing.”

Author Lee Kofman, who is one of the Jewish creatives on the list, told The AJN, “Since the doxxing, my mental health has really fluctuated and it’s occupied my headspace.”

“It’s been really emotionally distressing,” Kofman said.

“And it’s been hard to focus on parenting my small children and do my full time job as well. I’m not even the most affected person, some of our members have had far worse consequences, but still I’ve been affected. For example, some anti-Zionist activists have been harassing the workplaces where I teach writing, trying to persuade those workplaces to cancel my workshops.”

Kofman said she knows of several members who have either lost work, received hateful messages and have deactivated all their social media accounts.

A spokesperson for the group said it began as a support group for Australian Jews seeking to address antisemitism in their professional environments. It’s made up of artists, writers, actors, musicians and academics formed in the wake of the October 7 massacre, and it morphed into community activism responding to a surge in antisemitism in Australian arts, universities, schools and media, and particularly on social media.

Aghion said those responsible for leaking the information cannot get away with it, while Victoria Police confirmed it is investigating the incident.

One of the leaders of the leak was illustrator Matt Chun, who posted on October 8, “Power to the freedom fighters. Love to the martyrs. Death to the occupation. Resistance by any means necessary. Liberation from the River to the Sea.”

Pro-Palestine activist Clementine Ford also shared a link to the leaked spreadsheet to her large social media following.

“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,” Aghion said.

Raphael Leibler, a partner at Arnold Bloch Leibler law firm, said Australia is experiencing “seismic shifts” in the landscape of antisemitism, but the law has not kept up.

“Since 7 October, Arnold Bloch Leibler has acted for targets of antisemitism on personal safety, employment risk, illegal boycotts, racial vilification and defamation. Doxxing is the latest manifestation,” Leibler told The AJN.

“ABL has a proud history of acting in the public interest against racism and antisemitism. We will continue to do the right thing. We stand shoulder to shoulder with the Jewish community. Those spreading pernicious antisemitism do so at their peril.”

Allegra Spender speaking at the AUJS Political Training Seminar in Canberra.
Photo: Ben Appleton | Photox – Canberra Photography Services

Wentworth MP Allegra Spender said the doxxing of Jewish Australians is “appalling” and she welcomed the Prime Minister and attorney-general’s commitment to acting on the issue.

“It is an enormous violation of privacy and has encouraged abhorrent intimidation, abuse and death threats,” Spender said.

“This will also discourage people from sharing their experiences and seeking support at a time when they need it most.

“Privacy law is a highly complex area, and it is very important that we get this right.”

Member for Goldstein Zoe Daniel said the targeting of Jewish businesses is “reminiscent of the evil events of the 1930s that led directly to the Holocaust”.

“As a reporter I have seen the deadly consequences of sectarianism and the weaponising of faith.

“I ask those responsible for this latest act to consider the potential consequences of their actions. They are undermining the causes they purport to represent and seeking to make other Australians fear for their freedom of speech.”

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