Ventura County District Attorney Gregory D. Totten announced that county residents should be mindful of potentially unlawful social media posts during the current political climate. While we support a citizen’s right to free speech and the posting of personal opinions on the internet, there are risks and potential criminal liability associated with intentionally causing the harassment of others.
Electronically publishing a person’s personal identifying information for the purpose of causing that person to suffer fear or harassment may constitute a crime under what is commonly known as “doxing.” Any person who intentionally places another person in reasonable fear for his or her safety, or the safety of that person’s immediate family, by an electronic communication and for the purpose of causing that person unwanted physical contact, injury, or harassment by a third party, may be guilty of a misdemeanor. “Harassment” means knowing and willful conduct that is directed at a specific person, that serves no legitimate purpose, and would be considered as seriously alarming, annoying, tormenting, or terrorizing to a reasonable person. Personal identifying information can include a digital image, an electronic message of a harassing nature, a home address, or phone number.
The District Attorney wholeheartedly supports and defends our tremendous liberty and freedom of speech, and there are currently many subjects worthy of robust public debate in our community. However, residents should be aware that First Amendment rights are not unlimited, and we encourage the community to be mindful that the law prohibits doxing.