Tag Archives: government overreach

Reality Check: Would ‘Anti Sex Trafficking’ Bill Actually Hurt Victims?

It’s another case of politicians with good intentions pushing harmful legislation.

The U.S. House of Representatives just passed a bill aimed to fight sex trafficking online.

Politicians and celebrities are saying the bill will help save victims. Victim advocacy groups argue the bill is actually harmful to sex-trafficking survivors and sex workers. And the DOJ believes the bill is “unconstitutional.”

What is this new bill really about, and what are the repercussions of it?

This is a Reality Check you won’t get anywhere else.

That’s the new public service announcement from Mary Mazzio, director of documentary “I Am Jane Doe.” The film focuses on what some people call a loophole in the law, specifically Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

The film highlights stories dating back to 2009 of families of sex trafficking victims who sued Backpage.com and lost. Lost, because reportedly Section 230 protects websites from like Backpage from being held responsible for all things posted to the site.

Soon after the documentary was released, Congress decided to get involved and a few weeks ago passed H.R. 1865, or as the bill is called, the “Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act” or FOSTA. Sounds good right? So what specifically does it do?

The bill amends federal law to assign liability for online services, including Backpage.com, that are “knowingly assisting, supporting, or facilitating” sex trafficking.

And it amends the hotly debated Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which states that quote, “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”

So congress fixed a big problem, right? Well, maybe not. The bill is considered government overreach by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the House Liberty Caucus, and a handful of Republicans and Democrats voted it down.

Why would they do that?

According to Ars Technica, “They argued that the law was unconstitutionally broad and that it conflicted with Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which grants website providers broad immunity against liability for hosting material posted by third parties.”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation strongly opposes the new House bill to amend Section 230. “FOSTA would punch a major hole in Section 230, enabling lawsuits and prosecutions against online platforms—including ones that aren’t even aware that sex trafficking is taking place. … If websites can be sued or prosecuted because of user actions, it creates extreme incentives. Some online services might react by prescreening or filtering user posts. Others might get sued out of existence.”

The EFF isn’t alone in its opposition. Victims advocacy groups, sex workers, free speech advocates, tech companies and others are coming forward saying that Section 230 is not broken, and that there is nothing preventing law enforcement right now from going after websites that promote sex trafficking.

Part of the reason for Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is “to preserve the vibrant and competitive free market that presently exists for the Internet and other interactive computer services, unfettered by Federal or State regulation” and “to ensure vigorous enforcement of Federal criminal laws to deter and punish trafficking of obscenity, stalking, and harassment by means of computer.”

So what you need to know is some websites have taken very strong action to prevent sex traffickers from using their platforms as a sales tool. Craigslist shut down its adult section in back in 2010, without government force.

But what H.R. 1865 will do is threefold:

  1. It will actually create massive liability for platforms, websites, ISPs, web hosting providers, and online advertisers, by holding them responsible for the actions of the users.
  2. It will create huge wave a lawsuits from trial lawyers who will go after internet companies, because again, those companies will be responsible legally for users actions
  3. And it will actually make internet companies less likely to work with law enforcement because if the company knows that someone is abusing their platform, the company is now responsible.

There are already laws in place to go after companies that knowingly support sex trafficking. There are laws in place to go after sex traffickers. But this bill only stands to create a whole new set of problems, without fixing the one it’s trying to fix.

That’s Reality Check. Let’s talk about that right now on Twitter and Facebook.

Government seizes and destroys 160-year-old historical documents; genealogists and historians are outraged

 

Last summer, the Clerk of Court in Franklin County, N.C., Patricia Chastain discovered documents dating back to 1840 in their courthouse basement. After organizing a project with the local historical society to reserve these valuable documents, the government intervened. And now the documents have been destroyed. Lost forever.

Some records were ruined by the mold, but most were completely viable.

 

haz suits

The collection of documents reviewed by the Heritage Society of Franklin County included Chattel mortgages, court documents, land transfer deeds, prohibition era-documents, delayed birth certificates, financial documents and county bonds.

The group’s board member and historian, Diane Torrent told Benswann.com’s Joshua Cook how excited she was when she analyzed this impressive collection.

“When I saw the Chattel mortgages I thought it was manna from heaven,” said Torrent. “Each book or box opened produced a new treasure.”

Torrent said that people in the community donated to help fund this document project. The donations included office space, computers, scanners, desks and filling cabinets – even a local judge paid the insurance to guarantee the project’s success.  Over 30 people donated their time.

Torrent explained why these documents were so important to genealogists and historians: “The U.S. Census is done every 10 years, but in 1890, the census was burned. All the census records for this date was lost. For example, the census records for 1880 jumps to 1900. So for researchers, any document that can fill in that 1890 gap is valuable and precious. It’s another tool for historians and genealogists,” she said.

“Chattel mortgages are not vital records, but they are important because they can show relationships in the community in that period of time. They can show neighbors borrowing from each other. The records also include names and dates, which is very important for researchers,” she added.

Torrent said that they found original immigration papers, which is surprising since the county, which is located in North Carolina, is landlocked. Another unique find was a letter from a soldier from World War I who wrote the clerk of courts to make sure his sister was being taken care of.

“This is extremely valuable to the family. It’s valuable for the community,” said Torrent.

Torrent said that trouble started when she contacted the North Carolina Department of Archives to ask for help with the process. The State Archives asked the Heritage Society about their cursory inventory and asked about the types of documents and dates they found. They told the Heritage Society that they would get back with them with an official assessment.

Torrent continued to work on the records, but after the Heritage Society began to archive the documents in their new office, Angela Harris, the county manager told them to “stand down.”

According to Torrent, the assessment from the State Archives had finally arrived. The documents were worthless and should be destroyed, the state contended.  They claimed that the records could not be preserved by the Heritage Society because of the chance of mold contamination.

The State Archives reportedly came in and confiscated some of the historical records. Torrent asked the State Archives why the documents were being confiscated if they were dangerous and of no value. Their reply was, they’re “clean,” Torrent said.

She said that those “clean” documents were picked up from the floor of the basement and placed into white boxes. Her protests were ignored.

The hazmat team was called by the county manager. All of the documents in the basement, including documents not infected by mold, were destroyed.

"Clean" prohibition files from the 1930s
“Clean” prohibition files from the 1930s

Torrent says they still do not have answers. “None of our questions have been answered, none of our phone calls have been returned,” she said.

Torrent questions why the documents were destroyed and why there was a lack of transparency.

“I think it was poor judgment,” said Torrent. “They did not realize the value of historic documents to the community at large. They don’t know the public. Some people don’t care about history; they just think it’s junk.”

“This to me is a difference of what we hold valuable. I hold this county’s history valuable. These were not mundane records, these were historical documents and now they are lost forever.”

One blogger wrote, “My suspicion is that in and amongst all those now destroyed records, was a paper trail associated with one or more now prominent, politically connected NC families that found its wealth and success through theft, intimidation and outrageous corruption.”

The actions by the state and county officials have angered residents. An online petition was created claiming that Northern “carpetbaggers” ordered the documents to be destroyed.

“Are there African Americans living in Franklin County, North Carolina today whose ancestors owned land stolen by carpetbaggers?” the petition asks.

Land Proceedings Index dated 1852
Land Proceedings Index dated 1852

Some in Franklin County are calling for county manager’s resignation. Watch the video below:

“The tax payers of Franklin paid $8,000 to destroy the documents, including the basement cleanup. I could have laminated every document for less than $8,000,” said Torrent.

Torrent’s advice to other historical societies facing similar challenges is, “get loud now. Get vocal very early.”

Benswann.com called the county manager’s office but was unable to get a response.

 

Follow Joshua Cook on Facebook and on Twitter: @RealJoshuaCook

Toddler Dies In State Custody After Being Taken From Parents

A 2-year-old girl was killed after she was removed from her parents’ home and placed in child protective services.

Toddler Dies In State Custody

Little Alexandria Hill in Round Rock, Texas was taken from her biological parents who were accused of neglecting her because they are pot smokers. The couple was charged with “neglectful supervision,” but claimed to only smoke pot after they put their daughter to bed.

Child Protective Services removed Alexandria from the home of Joshua Hill and his wife last november.

The Hills got visitation time with their daughter. Almost as soon as she was taken, Joshua began to notice severe bruises and injuries on the little girl’s body. He complained to state officials, and Alexandria was given a new foster home.

Things got better after that… For a while.

One day, Joshua got a call from the hospital that he will never forget. His Alexandria was there, and she was in a coma. She died soon thereafter.

After a medical examination, it was concluded that the girl died from trauma to the head. Alexandria’s new foster mother has been charged with murder.

Alexandria’s foster mother, Sherill Small, found the girl through the MENTOR program. Small passed all of the necessary background checks and had no violent history.

Small told investigators that she was spinning Alexandria around in circles when she accidentally let go of her hands. It was then, claimed Small, that the girl brutally hit her head on the carpet.

But her story didn’t add up.

During an examination, doctors found evidence of severe brain injury. After pressing Small with more questions, the woman admitted that she got angry with Alexandria and hit her over the head down near the ground with a “lot of force” several times. The girl’s head smashed against the floor on the third time.

The bigger question in this case is if the state initially acted illicitly. It is entirely possible that state officials overstepped boundaries by forcefully taking the girl and putting her in foster care.

If Alexandria had remained with her biological parents, she likely would not have ended up dead.

Is there blood on the Texas state government’s hands? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.