Oregon Lawmakers Consider Making It a Crime to Dox Someone, and Banning Law Enforcement From Posting Mugshots

Publishing a person's private information "with the intent to harass, humiliate or injure another person" could become a misdemeanor offense.

Police pull a protester from the crowd and arrest them on Sept. 26, 2020. (Alex Wittwer)

Oregon lawmakers are working on a pair of bill concepts for the 2021 legislative session that would make it illegal to post someone's personal information online with the intent to humiliate them, and that would prohibit law enforcement from releasing mugshot photos to the public in many circumstances.

The bill concepts have been drafted in the Oregon Legislature's Joint Committee On Transparent Policing and Use of Force Reform. That committee is is co-chaired by Rep. Janelle Bynum (D-Clackamas) and Sen. James Manning (D-North Eugene), who were among the legislators leading police reform efforts during the June 2020 Special Session.

If the first bill concept is passed into law, "doxxing," which entails posting an individual's private and identifying information online, would become a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to 364 days in jail and a fine of $6,250. If the doxxer has a prior conviction, they could be charged with a Class C felony.

A person could be convicted of doxxing if they intentionally disseminate someone else's personal information "with the intent to harass, humiliate or injure another person," if the person knew or should have known the other person didn't consent to the disclosure and if the subject of the doxxing is "harassed, humiliated or injured by the disclosure."

"Personal information" includes a person's home address, personal email address, phone number, social security number, employer contact information or photos of their children. "Disclosing" such information could include transferring, publishing, distributing, exhibiting or advertising it.

Those restrictions would not apply to law enforcement, media who obtained the information through public records, legal proceedings, legitimate medical, scientific or educational activities and "disclosures that serve a lawful public interest."

Doxxing has long been a specialty of Portland anti-fascist organizations, who regularly post the home addresses and other personal details of alleged white supremacists and neo-Nazis. In recent years, the practice has expanded as a weapon between dueling protest groups.

The second legislative concept would prevent law enforcement from releasing a person's booking photo, also known as a mugshot, except to other law enforcement agencies, upon criminal conviction if the booking photo led to the person's arrest, upon requests from the media when there is a public interest, and to the public in situations where law enforcement agencies need assistance finding a suspect, or is asking for the public's help to identify someone.

As WW reported in September, some Portland protesters said their lives were upended when a conservative pundit named Andy Ngo published their mugshots on his Twitter account accompanied by personal information, including where they work.

Ngo's posts appears to be legal, WW previously reported. The new proposed legislation would likely make it more difficult for conservative activists like Ngo to access photos of those who've been arrested.

Some third-party websites also post mugshots. The proposed legislation would make those websites, known as "publish-for-pay publications," remove a person's mugshot from their website if they submit a request to do so. The website would have to remove it within 30 days, or seven days if charges were dismissed, and it could charge no more than $50 for the removal. Failure to do so would make the website civilly liable.

Lawmakers are seeking to add this provision to Oregon's current public records laws.

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