Jewish Australians are calling for new laws to outlaw the “Nazi era” tactic of “doxxing” as outrage builds following the shock public release of the private details of 600 Jewish artists and creatives last week.
The Executive Council of Australian Jewry will propose reform to the Criminal Code to make it unlawful to post private or identifying information about an individual or group with the intent the information be used to cause harm to the victim, otherwise known as doxxing.
The move follows the release of the social media profiles, pictures and occupation of 600 Jewish Australians from a WhatsApp group, with the information spread online in a downloadable spreadsheet.
ECAJ president Daniel Aghion KC said the doxx attack was “synonymous with the Nazi era”.
“We cannot, as a free and democratic society, permit the compilation of racial blacklists and the ensuing exclusion, vilification and harassment to take place,” he said on Monday.
“This abhorrent practice … has no place in our society.”
Victoria Police has confirmed it is investigating the release and leaders from the Liberal and Labor parties and crossbench have reacted with shock and anger to the news.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, speaking at a doorstop in Ballarat on Sunday, said he had spoken with some of the artists targeted in the dox.
“The targeting of people because they happen to be Jewish, is just completely unacceptable and it’s got to stop, it must stop,” he said.
Wentworth MP Allegra Spender 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 Berowra MP Julian Leeser 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 October 7 when Islamic terror group Hamas butchered hundreds of Israeli civilians, including the elderly, women and children, in a surprise attack on the Jewish state.
The terrorists kidnapped 240 Israelis, holding them hostage in Gaza.
Israel responded with force, bombing the densely populated slip of land.
The bombing campaign, though directed at Hamas fighters, has resulted in thousands of Palestinian deaths, including children and Palestinian men and women who are not associated with Hamas.
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.”