Amid the controversy surrounding 23-year-old National University of Singapore (NUS) undergraduate Monica Baey’s exposure of fellow student Nicholas Lim Jun Kai’s identity as the perpetrator of a voyeuristic act – of which she was a victim – via a series of Instagram Stories recently, lawyers have raised concerns as to whether Ms Baey’s exposé would constitute an offence in itself under new laws on ‘doxxing’.
‘Doxxing’, originating from the word ‘docs’ or documents, refers to the act of searching, gathering and subsequently publishing personal information about a particular individual on the Internet that renders the subject of doxxing easily identifiable, such as their full name, home address, workplace, and other such information.
Lawyer Fong Wei Li told The New Paper on Mon (22 Apr) that ‘doxxing’ may constitute an offence under the recently proposed amendments to the Protection from Harassment Act (POHA).
“Under the new laws, which are yet to come into force, the information that was posted online can be deemed to cause harassment if the intention to do so can be proven,” said Fong.
He added that under POHA, the fact that Ms Baey was a victim of Lim’s crime would be immaterial under POHA, and that Lim may have the means to seek legal recourse through the Act should the amendments be passed, and should he consider Ms Baey’s exposé a form of harassment.
Ms Baey’s string of Instagram Stories on the matter also included a screenshot of a couple of Direct Messages (DMs) she had received, which warned her not to “anger’ Lim’s parents as the sender “heard that (his) parents are powerful people”:
The Singapore Police Force (SPF) in a statement on Tue (23 Apr) has refuted allegations surrounding Lim’s background, the Police, along with the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC), “did not consider his parents’ background”, as “such factors” are deemed to be “irrelevant considerations”.
“It is unfortunate that such untruths have been put out. The man’s parents have agreed for it to be disclosed that his father is a driver in the public transport sector and his mother is a housewife,” said SPF.
While it is evident that the sender of the DMs was the one making such claims regarding Lim’s parents, the transmission or dissemination of the messages, via Ms Baey’s screenshot that was posted as a public Instagram Story as seen above may raise issues under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill (POFMA), should it be enacted next month.
The Bill aims at curbing the “communication” of “false statements of fact”.
Thus, if the sender’s DMs were to be interpreted as “false statements of fact”, and the definition of “causing its communication” as stated in Section 3(3) above includes the transmission or dissemination of such material “on or through the Internet” by parties that did not come up with the statement, it is possible to assume that Ms Baey could be held liable for communicating a false statement of fact, particularly in light of the Police’s comments regarding Mr Lim’s background.
However, it is debatable as to whether such an interpretation could apply to Ms Baey’s act of posting the screenshot, as the subject matter contained in the screenshot may or may not meet any of the criteria in s.7(1)(b) POFMA as stated below:
Additionally, it can also be interpreted that Ms Baey’s focus was not on affirming that the messages she had received were true, but rather, reasonably, on the fact that the DMs appeared to her to be of a threatening nature.
In a series of Instagram Stories on 18 Apr, Ms Baey revealed that she was filmed last Nov by Lim whilst showering in her hostel bathroom at Eusoff Hall, and to her dismay, NUS had merely given him a 12-month conditional warning and instructed him to write an apology letter to her after investigating the incident.