Thursday, October 12, 2017

Washington DC not tracking teachers with criminal records


Scott McFarland of NBC Washington reports on Washington DC’s lack of a system to keep known sex offenders from resuming teaching in Washington DC.  Apparently the City is unreliable in using the MASDTEC database, and other states might not find out why a teacher was dismissed. e story aired on Wednesday Oct. 11, here.

There seem to be many problems with teacher background checks.  Stories about teachers started to increase around 2006, after NBC aired its series “To Catch a Predator” with Chris Hansen.  Most offenders were heterosexual. 

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Sex trafficking laws can catch unknowing bystanders


While Backpage and Section 230 continue to provide legal controversy, zealous prosecution of those who incidentally, and perhaps inadvertently, assist sex trafficking of minors becomes a problem.
  
Truthout, in a long piece by Lauren Walker, describes a federal conviction of a young woman who allowed an underage minor sex worker in her mother’s apartment to change clothes and apparently have a sex act, as guilty of trafficking and is on a sex offender registry for life (link).   The young woman says she was told that the other girl was an adult.  All of this is fallout from the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. 

One wonders if allow one's Internet connection to be used without one's knowledge for trafficking could qualify as an offense. 

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Hollywood lobbies hard to hold service providers responsible for downstream liability in the Backpage-Section 230 controversy


Today, the Cato Institute held a day-long symposium in Washington DC, “The Future of the First Amendment”.

Most of the remarks about Section 230  and the recent Backpage controversy are on the “BillBoushka” blog entry.


But in a private conversation after the event, and executive from Cloudflare said that the law regarding sex trafficking already worked the same was as the law does for child pornography. That is (as Volokh suggested at lunch), intermediaries need report violations only when they know about them; they don’t have to go looking for them in advance.
  
He also suggested that Hollywood had been lobbying the Backpage issue deliberately to weaken Section 230, even though in the copyright world Hollywood has the benefit of a similarly structured DMCA Safe Harbor,,  

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

S.O. registry even has to be made available to real estate purchases in some states



There is an interesting quirk in the way sex offender registries are handled, with Megan’s Law.    In Virginia, there is a tricky rule that realtors must disclose Megan’s law information to certain home purchasers, and it leads to a lot of convoluted advice to realtors. 

The law is designed to assist purchases with any concern about already stigmatized sex offenders in an area;  it does no pertain to the purchasers. 

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Some fear the "Backpage" bill could lead to almost universal requirement for age verification by most websites


Today, I posted a brief summary of an Ars Technica article by Tim Lee on my main “BillBoushka” blog about the possible effects of the bills in Congress to weaken Section 230 with regard to downsteam liability for sex trafficking ads.on some commercial websites, with less clarity of exposure for shared hosting services.

SiteLock had expressed concern about this in a private phone conversation with me last spring.

One speculative concern is the idea that websites that allow user logon to sell anything could be forced by future state laws to offer adult-id validation.  This was a fight we already had with COPA, with the decision finally reached in Philadelphia in 2007 to strike it down (I attended some of the testimony in October 2006 when I heard the judge make an interesting comment about “implicit content”).  

However VidAngel, itself controversial in terms of copyright issues, may have helped introduce technology to make adult screening more practical.  

Thursday, August 10, 2017

VidAngel seems to have a good answer for censorship, despite legal copyright battle right now


I’ve gotten a few emails from a streaming company called VidAngel which offers users the capability to filter content from other streams for objectionable material.  The company explains its service here

The service appears to give parents a way to monitor content their children see with voluntary means, as opposed to depending on censorship laws in the past like CDA and COPA that have been struck down.

Filters like this might be helpful to parents concerned about trafficking risks, now controversial.
  
But VidAngel has been in a legal battle over DMCA and copyright with several Hollywood studios, with legal issues to be covered another time.  Hollywood Reporter covers it here

I'm placing VidAngel's own short film explaining the legal mess on my Movies blog.  It's pretty complicated, and even involves North Korea. 
I did get a press release with these statements:

CEO:
"We are once again disappointed by another decision by Judge Birotte that badly misconstrued VidAngel’s allegations. During the more than seven months it took the Court to rule, there were a number of highly-publicized events showing that VidAngel’s antitrust allegations are correct, including the Directors Guild of America’s assertion of its collective bargaining agreement with the studios to force Sony to cease offering clean content to home viewers. Such events notwithstanding, the Court inexplicably denied VidAngel’s request for leave to amend its counterclaim to allege additional facts in support of its claim. We are conferring with our attorneys and will announce VidAngel's legal response to the Court’s ruling as soon as possible."
 
Attorney:

The decision in the VidAngel case is one of many recent district court decisions across the country which have disregarded the admonition of Twombly, in which the Supreme Court expressly curtailed the role of the district court judge by limiting their ability to make factual determinations on motions to dismiss.  Here the judge disregarded that rule and further incorrectly drew inferences in favor of the studios when the law requires the opposite.  We believe there is a high likelihood the ruling will be overturned on appeal.”

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Senate introduces sex trafficking bill that compromises Section 230


Robert Portman (R-OH) and others have drafted a “Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017”, which would expose Internet publishing platforms and websites more exposure to downstream criminal liability to user-generated content attempting to promote sex trafficking or actually offer prostitution.

The bill is said to be more restrained than the House version presented here on April 3, 2017.
   
Portman has said that the bill would only affect service providers who knowingly publish sex trafficking ads or facilitate them.



The potential for unintended consequences from this bill are considerable, as I have discussed today on my “BillBoushk” blog and will follow up on Wordpress soon. Law professor Eric Goldman takes up this matter in a blog post here
I've already emailed Electronic Frontier Foundation about this development, and noted that litigation against it could resemble those used against COPA, the Child Online Protection Act, a decade ago.