After DC rally, Kentucky could make ‘doxing’ minors a crime
By ADAM BEAM
Wednesday, March 6
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Weeks after a Kentucky high school student says he was wrongly vilified for his interaction with a Native American protester, state lawmakers on Wednesday advanced a bill that would make it a crime to publish personal information of a child online with the intent to harass, abuse or frighten.
A Kentucky state Senate committee approved a bill to make “doxing” anyone under 18 a crime. If the bill becomes law, it would make it a misdemeanor to publish minors’ personal information — such as a home address or the school they attend — to threaten them.
The proposal comes as social media companies are struggling to combat harmful content posted on their digital platforms that have real-world consequences.
“There are no brakes on Twitter,” said Todd McMurtry, an attorney for 16-year-old Nick Sandmann, whose interaction with Native American protester Nathan Phillips went viral in January. “Twitter itself barely has the capacity to monitor its own activity. To put some weight back on the citizens so that they can help fight back when they are doxed would be great to make up for the fact that Twitter barely does anything.”
But free speech advocates worry the proposal goes too far. Three Democrats voted against the bill, citing free speech concerns. Rebecca Ballard DiLoreto, a lobbyist for the Kentucky Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said the bill was too broad and would have unintended consequences. She noted the state already has laws to prosecute “terroristic threatening” and other harassing behavior.
“When I first read (the bill), what I thought about was when I visited Soviet Russia and when I visited China and how careful I was when I ever got on the internet in those countries,” DiLoreto said. “What you pass matters, and the language you use should matter. And you should want to pass laws that are constitutional and specific.”
Twitter spokeswoman Katie Rosborough said publishing or posting private someone’s private information without their consent violates the company’s rules, adding “we’re working to make it easier for users to report this type of behavior.”
The bill still has to pass the state Senate and the House of Representatives and it’s unclear if it has the necessary support. After Wednesday, lawmakers will have just five legislative days left to pass bills before they adjourn for the year.
The bill is responding to an incident in January when Sandmann, a student at Covington Catholic High School in northern Kentucky, was the target of countless social media comments after his interaction with Phillips near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington was posted online.
The first videos to emerge showed a smiling Sandmann wearing a red “Make America Great Again” hat standing very close to Phillips, who was beating a drum. At first, many online commenters declared Sandmann was harassing Phillips and used it to comment on the state of political discourse in this country. But interpretations later shifted as witnesses released more cellphone footage and Sandmann and others said it was Phillips who confronted them while they were waiting for a bus.
Various videos of the incident were viewed millions of times online, and soon photos of Sandmann, along with information about what school he attended, was circulating online. Wednesday, Sandmann’s father, Ted, told lawmakers his son was the “victim of the most sensational twitter attack on a minor child in the history of the internet.”
“My family and I are living in a nightmare,” Ted Sandmann told reporters following his testimony. “To think that people are taking the freedom of speech and turning it into hate speech is not right.”
As an example, Sandmann pointed to a tweet by former CNN host Reza Aslan, who tweeted a photo of Sandmann with the comment: “Honest question. Have you ever seen a more punchable face than this kid’s?”
The Sandmann family has already sued The Washington Post for $250 million, accusing the newspaper of falsely labeling Nick Sandman as a racist. Sandmann’s attorneys are threatening legal action against several other media outlets, including The Associated Press. Sandmann told lawmakers on Wednesday the family is still far away from “restoring my son’s reputation.”
“My son is going to go through the rest of his life with a target on his back,” Ted Sandmann said. “He’s always going to be looking over his shoulder. Because what harm has been done can’t be erased.”
Opinion: Stop U.N. Meddling in U.S. E-Commerce
By Paul Steidler
A thriving e-commerce sector benefits American manufacturers, retailers, consumers and entrepreneurs.
To preserve and further unleash this economic power and promise, the United States needs to restructure or end its relationship with the Universal Postal Union (UPU). This United Nations-affiliated organization sets international postal rates and standards, significantly influencing e-commerce sales prices and U.S. business prospects.
UPU international postal prices for small packages, those under 4.4 pounds or two kilograms, are based on political rather than market factors. And the big winners are e-commerce powerhouses China, Singapore and a few other industrialized countries that have mastered political gamesmanship at the UPU to secure subsidized Third World rates.
Renowned postal consultant Jim Campbell has documented that the U.S. Postal Service delivers these smaller packages for 50 percent or less of what it charges U.S. mailers for similar services. China gets discounts of 65 percent or more.
Jayme Smaldone, chief executive officer of consumer products company Mighty Mug, points out that Chinese counterfeiters pay $1.40 to send his product from China to the United States. The cost to Mighty Mug to send the legitimate product within the United States is $6.30.
The Trump administration understands these arcane and important issues and has taken strong action. Following an August Presidential Memorandum, the administration is moving forward with setting self-declared rates for packages entering the United States. It is also prepared to leave the UPU in October 2020 without a new international postal agreement.
Self-declared rates mean that foreign shippers will be charged the same amount by the U.S. Postal Service as U.S. shippers. In fact, with self-declared rates, it is probably appropriate to charge foreign shippers slightly more than 100 percent of the cost to U.S. businesses. This is because foreign packages enter the United States at only a few locations and must then be delivered to all 50 states, presenting typically higher average costs than domestic packages.
The United States is far from alone in its strong frustrations with the UPU. Canada and 30 countries are also working to revamp the organization. Pierre Morin, Canada’s chief representative to the UPU, recently said, “Canada does not always agree with the U.S. administration, but we are 100 percent aligned with our neighbor to the south on the need to move to self-declared rates.”
The need for marketplace reforms in international shipping is long overdue. In voicing support for the administration’s actions, Robert Taub, chairman of the Postal Regulatory Commission, said, “The anticompetitive nature of the Universal Postal Union has concerned the United States government since the Reagan administration.”
It is wrong to think of internationally subsidized postal prices as a “win” for U.S. consumers. The losses that the U.S. Postal Service incurs are made up by higher domestic package prices.
And U.S. postal rates are rising significantly. In January, the price of small box, priority mail package rose by 10 percent, as did the price of a first-class stamp. With the Postal Service projected to lose $6.6 billion this year and in dire financial straits, getting foreign shippers to pay their fair share is a must.
While the United States is in a strong negotiating position and may be able to reach an agreement with the UPU, it should not bend over backward to do so. If necessary, the United States should leave and negotiate fair and reciprocal agreements with all countries that want to ship to the U.S. market.
The U.S. economy is increasingly headed to e-commerce, generating jobs and business opportunities along with lower costs and conveniences for consumers. It makes no sense for the United States to jeopardize this by remaining captive to an international postal system favoring competitors.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Paul Steidler is a senior fellow with the Lexington Institute, a public policy think tank based in Arlington, Virginia. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.
Opinion: A Regulatory Framework for Cryptocurrencies Would Create a Land of Opportunities
By Harold Ford
Right around the time I entered politics, the U.S. government was figuring out how to embrace the growth of the internet. Investors were bullish, but skeptics warned about a disorganized platform where too many people had a voice and too few people added real value. In the decades since, the internet has developed into an indispensable tool that plays a fundamental role in almost every industry around the globe.
What many people fail to recognize from the internet’s success is that the United States, led by Congress and other key stakeholders, created a light regulatory framework in the early 1990s that fostered the web’s development and set a global standard for internet-based companies. Early on, with limited guardrails in place, young American tech companies, including Amazon, YouTube and Facebook — who are now rightly facing questions about size, reach and consumer privacy — were given a chance to develop, grow and ultimately entrench the United States as the globe’s most important tech innovator.
Since then, the world has become more globalized and increasingly more “flat” as Thomas Friedman labels it. Just like the internet, blockchain and crypto assets could improve financial markets and industries if the United States properly fosters its innovation. Not surprisingly, many people have a significant level of distrust over this new technology, immediately rolling their eyes when they hear about Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies. Nevertheless, as we saw in the development of the internet, skeptics can be wrong. This is one of those cases.
Blockchain technology uses a public ledger that allows easy, transparent, permanent and instantaneous transactions to take place across its platform. With it, many entrepreneurs have developed crypto assets and businesses that allow for the purchase of goods, instantaneous cross-border payments and a transparent supply chain management. More important perhaps, it has improved the efficiency of services and has offered greater accessibility to financial services for lower- and middle-income people. With lower costs and more transparency, both consumers and companies will have a more active participation in activities that are currently out of their reach.
As a former elected official who always worked to bring people together, I believe that greater economic freedom, while harnessing American innovation, is an issue that both parties would support. To achieve this goal, it is essential for Congress, along with other stakeholders, to work together in developing a balanced and comprehensive framework for crypto tokens that will offer guidance for entrepreneurs and ensure consumer protection.
Without clear regulation, investors will be discouraged to finance crypto-related companies that can provide reliable, cheaper and more efficient services to low- and middle-income earners. Regulatory ambiguity will only stump growth and kill investment — possibly threatening America’s opportunity to once again become the front-runner of a new technology.
Policymakers should be proactive in searching for the right balance of regulatory requirements. That balance should reflect the interests of the Congress, the Security and Exchange Commission, industry experts, business and consumers alike. Because without the appropriate rules, the field has the potential to become the Wild West, which would jeopardize the ability of everyday consumers to leverage this technology to improve their quality of life.
Some states, such as Wyoming, Colorado, Ohio and California are already taking the initiative to understand and develop a framework for businesses that use blockchain and cryptocurrencies. California, for example, created a blockchain working group to evaluate the use of the technology in government and private businesses, while Ohio started accepting Bitcoin for tax payments.
Recognizing the potential of blockchain technology, these states are taking the lead by fostering innovation — through talks with key industry players and testing of new opportunities — and should serve as models for the federal government as it develops its own regulatory framework.
In the meantime, the SEC has been the most forward-leaning government agency to date in asserting that neither Bitcoin nor Ether are securities because they are decentralized coins. But even more clarity is needed to ensure creation of a smart, thoughtful and cohesive regulatory framework that will help foster more innovation in crypto assets, birth thousands of new American jobs and protect consumers.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Harold Ford Jr. is a former U.S. representative from Tennessee. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.
Point: More Charter Schools Needed, Not Fewer
By Baker A. Mitchell Jr.
Placards carried by unionized teachers during their recent strikes in Los Angeles, Oakland, Calif., and West Virginia were a study in misdirection. “On Strike for smaller class sizes.” “On Strike for more student support.” “On Strike for a living wage.”
In reality, the primary motivation behind the strikes was organized opposition to charter schools, which have become an increasingly popular alternative to traditional public schools.
The teachers’ unions are hardly alone. In many states and jurisdictions, virtually the entire education establishment — school boards, superintendents, teachers’ unions, and even the universities where future teachers are trained — seems to be allied against charters.
The only “interest group” that doesn’t seem to be opposed to charter schools is parents. That’s why many charter schools have long waiting lists.
Some 3.2 million children in 43 states and the District of Columbia are now attending charter schools. By law, these schools are tuition-free and open to all, regardless of race, creed, national origin, religion, ancestry, or physical or intellectual ability or disability.
As the Department of Education notes, the contracts — or charters — the schools have with local and/or state authorities exempt them “from certain state or local rules and regulations.”
In return for flexibility and autonomy afforded by these exemptions, the schools must meet educational accountability and financial standards. If the standards aren’t met, the schools can lose their charters and are shut down. This remedy for nonperformance is in stark contrast to traditional public schools, which often limp along for years and years without being held accountable for their failures.
I became involved in education by accident. I’m an electrical engineer by profession. After establishing and leading the bioengineering section at the University of Texas’s M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, and later starting (and selling) a business, I retired and volunteered as a science teacher at Wesley Elementary School, a low-income, predominantly African-American school in Houston.
Wesley’s then principal, the late Thaddeus Lott, taught me what works in education: the proper curriculum executed with discipline, order, high expectations, and committed teachers and administrators. His results were more than impressive.
I later moved to Wilmington, North Carolina, where — inspired by Dr. Lott — I’ve helped establish four charter schools. They have 2,200 students and employ 305 teachers and staff. All four are what’s known as Title 1 schools, meaning 40 percent or more of their students are economically disadvantaged.
Three of the four schools are among the top-ranked in their respective counties — despite the fact that the state tests required of our students are based on the Common Core standards used in most traditional public schools, not the classical, direct instruction curriculum our schools use. Our fourth school, Douglass Academy — named for 19th-century civil rights icon Frederick Douglass — has been outperforming its neighboring traditional public schools and is on its way to becoming a top-ranked school in its own right.
Critics of charters complain about many things: that they’re responsible for “re-segregating” district schools, that they’re “skimming” the best students from the traditional public schools, that they’re hurting district school finances, and that the system is rigged in our favor, because of the “flexibility and autonomy” we enjoy.
A visit to a charter school will quickly belie these assertions. Demographically, most charter schools mirror the communities in which they’re located, as ours do. In fact, a Department of Education analysis a few years ago found that charter schools nationally educate a higher percentage of economically disadvantaged students (those qualifying for free or reduced-price lunch) than traditional public schools.
Regarding finances, while funding formulas vary, in North Carolina, like most states, charters receive less funding per student for operations than the traditional public schools and receive no funding whatsoever for facilities.
And if it’s the flexibility and autonomy that bother our critics, they should seek to eliminate the “one size fits all” rules and regulations that prevent traditional schools from innovating — as charters do — rather than lobbying against charters, depriving families of educational choice.
They also may evaluate whether they’re ready to submit to strict academic accountability standards. As I mentioned before, and it bears repeating: If a charter school doesn’t perform well, parents can move their kids elsewhere and the school can be required to close.
Charter schools aren’t the problem: They’re part of the solution. Instead of fighting with us, the education establishment should study our methods and copy what we’re doing.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Baker A. Mitchell Jr. is founder of The Roger Bacon Academy, a charter school management organization in Leland, N.C. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.
Counterpoint: Many States Need Charter School Reform
By Jeremy Mohler
Charter schools have become a politically complicated issue in recent years — highly contentious yet sometimes a little overblown.
But there’s no question that now is the time to slow down their growth, which has been fueled by many states allowing for a virtually unlimited number of charter schools to open.
Not because of anything about the schools themselves. Yes, charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately managed, don’t compare well overall with traditional, neighborhood schools. They close more often and pay teachers less. They’re more segregated and less transparent about spending taxpayer money, while generally performing about the same on standardized testing.
It’s time to limit their numbers because they’re draining funds from already-starved public school districts. In cities such as Chicago and Oakland, California, they’re even beginning to threaten the existence of neighborhood schools, which, unlike charter schools, are guaranteed to all students by right.
We should listen to the teachers who’ve been saying this loud and clear in recent months, from Los Angeles to West Virginia.
Nationwide, funding for public education is drying up, especially in the wake of the Great Recession. Total state and local K-12 funding per student is still well below what it was before 2008.
Priorities have shifted as well, falling hardest on students from poor and working families. Spending on prisons and jails has increased at triple the rate of public education funding in the last three decades. Seventeen states send more education dollars to wealthier districts than to high-poverty ones. More than 1.5 million students attend a school that has a law enforcement officer, but no school counselor.
Yet, in states like California and Arizona, and cities like Washington, D.C., more and more public money is being invested in charter schools as alternatives to neighborhood schools.
The sharpest example might be Oakland, which has the highest percentage of students in charter schools in California with the most charter schools nationwide.
Striking teachers there recently achieved demands that you’d expect, like higher pay and more resources for students. Yet they also forced district leadership to hold a vote whether to demand that state leaders pass a moratorium on new charter schools.
In January, striking teachers in Los Angeles all but forced their district to join the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in calling for such a moratorium. Days later, California governor Gavin Newsom announced the creation of a statewide panel to study the fiscal effect of charter school growth.
Some of that work has already been done. Research by In the Public Interest has shown that charter schools cost San Diego’s school district $66 million a year. This has led to cuts at the city’s neighborhood schools in counseling, libraries, special education and other critical services.
In Oakland, where district leadership is proposing to close 24 of its 87 neighborhood schools, charter schools cost $57 million a year.
West Virginia’s teachers didn’t want to get to that point. Last month they walked off the job to protest now dead legislation that would have opened up the state to charter schools.
It’s difficult to explain in a simple way how charter schools drain money from neighborhood schools, but actual dollar figures can help.
When a student leaves a neighborhood school to attend a charter school, all the public funding for that student — say, $10,000 a year — leaves with the student. But all the costs do not. The student’s old school can’t reduce it expenses by exactly $10,000 — it can’t spend less on fixed costs, like air conditioning and toilet paper, and its principle can’t work part time.
As more and more students attend charter schools that continue to open whether or not a new school is needed, already-struggling neighborhood schools are forced to make cuts that take resources from students.
Most charter school leaders and supporters recognize this problem. They acknowledge that charter schools were originally intended to allow educators to test innovative ways to teach students.
Yet, some supporters and funders openly aim to replace neighborhood schools. They fund school board candidates who support creating more and more charter schools. Like the Walton Family Foundation of Walmart fame, which has spent over a billion dollars nationwide pushing charter schools. And Netflix founder Reed Hastings, who wants charter schools to educate 90 percent of California’s students.
Ultimately, parents just want a great school for their children. Most don’t care whether it’s neighborhood or charter. Teachers want a living wage and enough school resources to best educate and care for their students.
States must learn from the now decades-long experiment with charter schools, and reform their laws to ensure that all public school students can attend great schools.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Jeremy Mohler is a Washington-based writer with the national nonprofit In the Public Interest. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.