Meehan, Brooks lead bipartisan crack down on ‘doxxing’, online extortion

Online crimes such as sharing non-consensual pornography would be prohibited under federal law as part of bipartisan legislation introduced by U.S. Reps. Patrick Meehan (R-PA) and Susan Brooks (R-IN) that shores up online safety, particularly for women and children.

The lawmakers introduced the bill on Tuesday in response to widespread reports of individuals being “doxxed” by having their private addresses published online with malicious intent, perpetrators publishing private photos without consent or using them for “sextortion,” and fake threats or emergencies leading to law enforcement raids, otherwise known as “swatting.”

The Online Safety Modernization Act would establish penalties for doxxing, sextortion, non-consensual pornography and swatting while giving local law enforcers more resources to investigate and prosecute online crime rings or significant online threats.

“The growth of the internet and the proliferation of smartphones have meant that harassment and stalking increasingly takes place online, but our laws have been slow to keep pace with this new generation of predatory behavior,” Meehan said. “Swatting, sextortion and doxxing have real-world consequences and the perpetrators should be held accountable for their actions. This legislation empowers law enforcement to crack down on these activities, protects victims, and will ultimately make the internet a safer place to connect with the world around us.”

The Online Safety Modernization Act would give the Department of Justice and FBI additional resources to prosecute cybercrimes. It would also establish a resource center that provides information, training and technical support to individuals, local governments and organizations.

“As our world grows increasingly more connected and mobile, sexual abuse, harassment and extortion are also moving online, and unfortunately, our laws have failed to effectively protect victims of these crimes, leaving them feeling trapped, ashamed and desperate,” Brooks said.

“The fact of the matter is, the laws governing sextortion, doxxing and swatting were written when computers didn’t fit in our pockets, phones were plugged into walls and texting required a stamp. In order to punish and prosecute these predators to the fullest extent of the law, we must bring our laws into the age of smartphones and Snapchat,” Brooks said.

Meehan and Brooks introduced the bill with bipartisan support from U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA).