Lawmaker won’t crack down on ‘Doxxing’ in bill

Posted at 8:10 PM, Feb 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-11 22:41:38-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- A bill that aims to crack down on cyber crimes has been scaled back over concerns by it's sponsor that it infringes on free speech rights.

Rep. David Lifferth, R-Eagle Mountain, announced Thursday that he gutted part of his own bill, HB225, because of concerns that it went too far in cracking down on speech online. Specifically, Rep. Lifferth removed a portion of the bill that cracked down on "Doxxing," which is posting personal information (like address, phone number, etc.) online with the intent to harass.

Lifferth said existing law provides some criminal penalty if posting such info is meant to cause harm, but posting certain information publicly obtained may not be a crime. He also planned to remove the words "annoy, offend and frighten" from the existing law because of free speech concerns.

"I'm fairly active online and I'm sure just by being here today and breathing I'm offending, annoying and frightening someone," he said. "But those are rights that are protected under the First Amendment."

Lifferth insisted he was not criminalizing speech, pushing back against accusations he was trying to make it illegal to say something that may offend online.

HB225 would still enhance the crimes for hacking, DDOS attacks and "Swatting," where a hoax 911 call is made to provoke a police response on someone not in danger. Swatting has been used as part of online harassment, supporters of the legislation have said.

The Utah Department of Public Safety, which has devoted more resources to investigating cyber crimes, said it supports HB225.

"One of the things we are trying to accomplish and support the representative on is addressing attacks or attempted intrusions or intrusions on critical infrastructure," said DPS Major Brian Redd.