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Senate committee backs bill to battle online harassment

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Senate committee backs bill to battle online harassment

By Ryan Morgan | Posted - Mar. 2, 2017 at 7:21 a.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY — Lawmakers moved to head off the latest cybercrime concerns during a Wednesday committee hearing.

"Doxing" is the online distribution of identifying information intended to promote harassment of a specific person by a broader online community.

SB227, sponsored by Rep. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, would prohibit people from disbursing information with the intent that its release will lead to the online harassment of a person.

"We live in a different age today than when I grew up," Stephenson said. "People's reputations can be ruined overnight."

Anything from personal images to Social Security numbers and bank accounts could be targeted and spread with harmful intent, he said.

The bill would rely on proof of intent to separate harmful targeted harassment from other acts of distributing personal information.

"Intent is very difficult to prove, but I think that is kind of the point," said Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City. "If this is something about harassment or intimidation, then I think that intent is a lot easier to prove."

Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, questioned the enforceability of laws when online interactions can involve people across state lines.

Will Carlson, of the Statewide Association of Prosecutors, said prosecutors could handle criminality between states, similar to how they have prosecuted "revenge porn" cases in the past.

"As long as one element of the crime occurs within a jurisdiction, that jurisdiction can file a criminal charge," Carlson said.

Hillyard said he would support the bill but added that he felt concerns about addressing the number of challenges with less than two weeks remaining in the legislative session.

The bill passed the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee on a 3-1 vote, with committee chairman Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, offering the dissenting vote.

The bill will continue to the Senate floor for further consideration.

Ryan Morgan

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