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News

Lamont approves a program to prevent doxing, cyber stalking, and online abuse

Gov. Ned Lamont
Ryan Caron King
/
Connecticut Public
Gov. Ned Lamont

Even though Connecticut has laws on the books that criminalize some types of online harassment, Stacey Sobel fears people don’t always know abuse when they see it.

“When people's personal data is posted on public social media platforms -- that's what we call doxing -- that's online abuse,” said Sobel, the Connecticut regional director for the ADL (Anti-Defamation League). “When the SWAT team is called to go to someone's home, that's considered online abuse.”

That’s why she and her organization supported a bill that would create a grant program to fund training programs to reduce occurrences of online abuse -- things like cyberstalking, cyber harassment, doxing and Zoom bombing. Under the program, $500,000 would be made available to school districts, non-profits and government agencies that do training. It’s part of a larger public bill that deals with domestic violence, and it was passed without voting opposition by both chambers of the legislature.

Gov. Ned Lamont has signed the budget package that includes the funding for the program and the bill establishing the program itself into law.

Sobel says that the measure comes at an important time. A 2021 ADL poll showed 41 percent of Americans experienced online harassment during the previous 12 months. Just last year, Connecticut enacted a new law last year that amended its statutes on cyberstalking.

“I started my job in January and we've already had reports of incidents of online hate and abuse that would fall under the law that was passed last year,” Sobel said. “The law is so new that law enforcement is trying to determine the best ways to enforce that law.”

She says one goal of the proposed training is to help law enforcement better identify online harassment. But it’s more than that.

“Our hope is that young people get sent out into the world with a knowledge of the sources of hate and that they are comfortable reporting it to the Anti-Defamation League, or that they're comfortable standing up to it “

Updated: May 25, 2022 at 6:15 PM EDT
This story has been updated to reflect that the governor has signed the bill.