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Inspired by Covington scandal, Kentucky Senate panel OKs bill to criminalize ‘doxing’ minors

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FRANKFORT, Kentucky, March 7, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Legislation to ban the “doxing” of minors overwhelmingly passed a Kentucky Senate committee on Wednesday, inspired by the torrent of threats aimed at Covington Catholic High School Students after a video from the March for Life inspired a wave of false accusations against the boys.

The Senate State and Local Government Committee voted 8-3 to approve Senate Bill 240, the Louisville Courier Journal reports. The bill would make it a crime to disseminate personal identifying information about a minor on the internet – such as names, addresses, birth dates, Social Security numbers, schools, or contact info – for the purpose of harassing or intimidating that person. “Doxing” would start out as a misdemeanor but become a felony if it resulted in physical or financial harm to the victim.

Opponents of the legislation, such as Rebecca DiLoreto of the Kentucky Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and Democrat state Sen. Morgan McGarvey, argued the bill was broad enough to potentially infringe on free speech and criminalize students simply taunting each other online.

“I think it would force people to think before they tweeted,” Todd McMurtry, an attorney representing the family of Covington student Nick Sandmann, said in support of the measure. “I think it would do a lot to make the internet, Facebook and Twitter at least a little bit safer.”

Immediately following January’s March for Life in Washington, D.C., the press erupted with claims that a video showed Covington students harassing Nathan Phillips, a Native American activist, outside the Lincoln Memorial. But additional extended video and firsthand accounts soon revealed that Phillips was the one who waded into the group waiting for its bus and decided to beat a drum inches from Sandmann’s face, while members of the Black Hebrew Israelites fringe group shouted racial taunts at the kids.

Last month, an independent investigation commissioned by the Diocese of Covington (which had initially condemned the boys) cleared them of wrongdoing, confirming the students’ explanation that they had been performing chants to drown out the Black Hebrew Israelites, and did not respond to their abuse in kind.

Many who ran with the original narrative just as quickly deleted their initial condemnations, but as some try to keep it alive, attorneys representing the students have threatened to sue numerous media figures and Phillips himself for defamation. Sandmann’s attorneys have filed a $250 million lawsuit against the Washington Post.

Among the hate directed at the students were multiple calls to violence not only by internet trolls but by celebrities and media figures. Left-wing actress and former CNN contributor Kathy Griffin, for example, tweeted, “Name these kids. I want NAMES. Shame them. If you think these f***ers wouldn’t dox you in a heartbeat, think again.”

Michelle Grissom, a middle-school history teacher in Colorado, was placed on leave after she incorrectly identified a student who didn’t attend the March as being in the video, calling him a member of the “#HitlerYouth.”

“My son, Nicholas Sandmann, was the victim of the most sensational Twitter attack in the history of the internet,” Nick’s father Ted Sandmann told the committee in support of the legislation, detailing his son’s experiences since the video was published. “It shows how far out of control social media has become [...] We are still a far way from winning back my son’s reputation.”

The bill is likely to win the support of the full Senate and House, as well as that of Republican Gov. Matt Bevin. But SB 240’s sponsor, Republican state Senator and Attorney General candidate Wil Schroder, noted that there was limited time remaining in the current legislative session and the bill might not be enacted until next year.

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