Arizona Passes Law Criminalizing “Doxing”
On April 28, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed House Bill 2502 into law, making Arizona the latest state to criminalize “doxing.” Doxing means intentionally revealing another person’s contact information online with the goal of inciting third parties to harass that person. While many state and federal stalking and harassment laws arguably prohibit doxing, Arizona now joins California in explicitly outlawing it.
Sending social media posts, text messages, and emails (among other electronic communications) containing a “person’s personal identifying information” “for the purpose of imminently causing the person unwanted physical contact, injury or harassment by a third party” is prohibited by this new criminal law. For criminal penalties to apply the doxing must “in fact incite or produce that unwanted physical contact, injury or harassment.” Individuals that violate this new criminal law face up to six months in jail and/or a $2,500 fine, probation and possibly other penalties. The charge is a 1 misdemeanor for which conviction will result in a formal criminal record.
Similar to Section 230 of the federal Communications Decency Act, this new Arizona doxing law exempts “interactive computer service” providers from the doxing ban. In layman’s terms, this means that forum-websites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram cannot be charged for doxing performed by a third party on those sites.
Our takeaway is that while H.B. 2502 should help prevent harassing online behavior and be a critical tool for practitioners looking to prevent or stop online harassment, the overall impact of the bill may be limited. The requirement that harassing behavior “in fact” occurs seems to be a significant bar to prosecuting doxing events. And the Section 230-style immunity for large forum websites may frustrate individuals or corporate clients seeking to stop a widespread doxing event. However, corporations or individuals that find themselves on the wrong end of online harassment now have added protections. Acting as a deterrent to bad actors, and another tool for legal counsel, among others such as civil cease and desist efforts, temporary restraining orders, injunctions against harassment and the like, this new doxing law provides yet another potential remedy, this one with the teeth of the criminal justice system behind it.