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Colorado bans doxxing of health workers, officials

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Colorado this week outlawed sharing online the personal information of public health workers, officials or their families as a way to harass or intimidate them, responding to a massive increase in such threats during the coronavirus pandemic.

Under current Colorado law, the doxxing of a law enforcement official or a human services worker, or their families, is a misdemeanor. 

The law signed by Gov. Jared Polis (D) on Tuesday extends those protections to health workers. Violators would be punished by up to 18 months in jail and a $5,000 fine.

Polis said health workers should not have to face the same vitriol as elected officials. 

“We choose to run for office, we put ourselves out there. You are doing your job as public health officials and you should not be subject to this kind of online targeting at home, at work,” Polis said prior to signing the bill, which takes effect immediately.

“What they have been through this last year is absolutely extraordinary,” Polis said. “The work that’s been called upon them, the way they have risen to the occasion and the piece that this bill addresses, which is some of the doxing and the targeting.”

Public health workers and officials across the country have been targeted throughout the coronavirus pandemic, as their work has put them front and center of the politicized response to virus restrictions. 

Their homes have been vandalized, they have received death threats and even armed protesters have descended on the homes of public health workers in some states.

“It has been a trying year,” said John Douglas, director of Tri-County Health, Colorado’s largest public health department. 

The bill’s co-sponsor, state Rep. Yadira Caraveo (D), said she began working on the legislation as soon as she saw reports of the pressures and threats faced by public health workers early in the pandemic.

“This is an incredibly important workforce all of the time but especially in the middle of a pandemic. They need to be focusing on what their work is and not dealing with threats and acts of vandalism as they’re trying to protect our public health,” Caraveo said.

Tags Coronavirus COVID-19 Doxxing Jared Polis Public health

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