Wednesday, April 12, 2017

SCOTUS considers North Carolina law barring convicted sex offenders from social media sites after sentences are complete

The Supreme Court is considering whether a North Carolina law barring convicted sex offenders
from social media sites (after they have completed their sentences and any probation) is constitutional.  The law would bar use of any social media site that allows minors access.
The Verge has a typical story here.

The case concerns Lester Gerard Packingham, who was arrested after using a Facebook account under a fake name.  Facebook has its own company policy of not allowing convicted sex offenders to have accounts.

The law might be overbroad, preventing use of news sites like the New York Times, that have a social networking component.

Bloomberg had a report on the oral arguments here.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Litigation develops over Geek Squad's reporting of child pornography to FBI, at least from a data recovery center in Kentucky

Tom Jackman has a followup on earlier reports about technicians at the Geek Squad participating in detecting child pornography on computer products turned in to them for repair.  The link for the story on page A14 of the Washington Post today, Tuesday, April 4, 2017 here.

 The main concern is with a repair facility in Brooks KY (near Louisville) where devices and hard drives may be sent for data recovery by customers.  Court papers in a suit by a defendant (a California physician) imply that a few technicians at the Kentucky facility were paid as informants.

Any time a consumer turns in a device for repair at any Best Buy Geek Squad outlet, he or she signs a declaration about being “on notice” that any child pornography found will be turned over to authorities. But the company says technicians are not supposed to look actively for it.

There could be concerns that some images might be legally ambiguous.  For example, could a gratuitous video of the pat down of a pre-teen boy by the TSA be perceived as child pornography by some people?

Again, it’s easy to imagine automated scanning tools looking for watermarked images on a drive or in Cloud storage.

It’s also possible that a virus or malware could place child pornography on a consumer’s device without his or her knowledge.  I wrote a few blog posts about this possibility in the summer of 2013.

These have been rare, but there was at least one report of ransomware which does this in 2014.  The legal environment in the past (more than ten years ago) used to assume “absolute liability” for possession on user computers before law enforcement began to recognize the possibility of malware being a cause.

It’s also possible to be arrested if someone hijacks a home router and uses it to down load traceable (watermarked) child pornography.   The legal responsibility of users for misuse of their own routers is a gray area.  It could become an issue, for example, for people who rent homes out through Airbnb.

Monday, April 03, 2017

Section 230: MO congresswoman introduces bill to amend it to give service providers more responsibility to intercept sex trafficking as well as child pornograohy

Congressperson Ann Wagner (R-MO) has introduced a bill “Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017”, text here.  I did not see an HR number yet for the bill.  So far she has nine co-sponsors.

Wagner wants to amend Section 230 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act (“Communications Deceny Act”) in various ways.  It will take some time to sort out the potential practical implications for ISPs and for publishing facilitators and social media companies.  But the most troublesome provision seems to be the last one, which is vague (in a constitutional sense) – what is “reckless disregard”?

I do know that Google screens Gmail attachments (and probably Picasa uploads) for digital watermarks associated with known child pornographic images identified by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Alexandria VA.  It would seem plausible to expect companies to expand this automated screening: images are added all the time to the database when people get arrested and collections are processed by police.

Practically all reputable providers say they report child pornography if they find it. But this bill would seem to add sex trafficking to the list.  That might be much harder to screen for that is c.p.   But this will take some time to delve into.

“Enough Is Enough”  (typical blog entry ) made a press release today.

Here is a copy of their press release today (they had no web reference for the release):

"Washington, DC –Today, Congresswoman Ann Wagner (MO) introduced a bill to amend Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA), which has been misused for years as a defense to shield facilitators of child pornography and the sex trafficking of children and women.  Enough Is Enough (EIE) supports this much needed bill, intended to clarify the original intent of this provision.
 “Sexual predators, traffickers, pornographers and child pornographers were the early adaptors of Internet technology and continue to use this technology to further their criminal activity. Every day children in the United States are sold for sex, often over the Internet on sites like

"Unfortunately, such companies have  been allowed to hide behind the  CDA’s Section 230  provision originally designed to be a safe harbor defense for  Internet service providers and companies that attempted ‘good faith’ efforts to protect children from exposure to Internet pornography by third parties,” said Donna Rice Hughes, President of Enough Is Enough, the non-profit organization who authored  The Children’s Internet Safety Presidential Pledge signed by Donald J. Trump on July 16, 2016.  In February 2017, Enough Is Enough sent the Children’s Internet Safety Presidential Proposal (CISPP) to the White House, which incorporates the original tenets of The Children’s Internet Safety Presidential Pledge and is supplemented by additional recommendations that include amending Section 230 of the CDA.

" For years, EIE has encouraged Congress to amend Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1998 to allow prosecution of those who facilitate illegal commercial sex acts via the Internet, in order to thwart the practice of sex trafficking and prevent those engaged in it from profiting from the exploitation of countless children.  We applaud Congresswoman Wagner’s bill and encourage Congress to take action now. This is a bi-partisan issue, which we can surely all agree on, ” continued Ms. Hughes, who voiced strong support  of the 2013 effort of The National Association of Attorneys General (49 Attorneys General) calling on Congress to make a two word amendment to the CDA which would enable state prosecutors to help fight prostitution and child sex trafficking.

 The CDA was the first piece of legislation by Congress, which attempted to extend the existing laws designed to protect minor children from sexual predators, hard-core obscene content and indecent pornography to the Internet world. All provisions became law with the exception of the indecency provision, which was challenged and eventually struck down by the Supreme Court.  Section 230 of the CDA, nicknamed ‘The Good Samaritan Defense’, unfortunately led to the unintended consequences of gross misinterpretation by federal courts that have allowed the provision to grant immunity to companies who profit from selling sex with children and women.

"The Presidential Pledge and supporting documentation, including the signed Pledge by President-elect Trump can be found at the link above. 

"EIE is urging the public to support the effort by using the hashtag #DrainTheCyberswamp on their social media channels

"Enough Is Enough® is a national bi-partisan non-profit organization who has led the fight to make the Internet safer for children and families since 1994. EIE's efforts are focused on combating Internet p*rnography, child p*rnography, sexual predation, sex trafficking, cyberbullying by incorporating a three-pronged prevention strategy with shared responsibilities between the public, Corporate America, and the legal community.".

Here's their post on Internet Safety for parents.

We;;, if this isn’t enough, consider the story today in the St. Louis Post Dispatch reports that “Show Me State” attorney General John Hawley announced many other anti-trafficking measures.    I’ll have to come back to this, there is too much to digest all in one meal.

Ashton Kutcher (“AplusK”) says “Real men don’t buy girls”.

Picture: By Marcus Qwertyus - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Media videos of TSA pat-down of minor at Dallas airport borders on c.p.

The Dallas Morning News reports on a disturbing incident at DF airport where a 13-year old boy with some developmental issues received a pat down, apparently quite publicly, that some would see as physically humiliating.  The story is here.

There are videos of this incident but I won’t embed one because it could be interpreted as c.p.

One Facebook friend said she wants to give up flying out of moral support over the incident.
In 2002, I briefly considered becoming a TSA screener while still living in Minneapolis and went to a job fair.  I was concerned about the pat down issue, especially because I am “public” online about my sexual orientation, by analogy to how the military “don’t ask don’t tell” was processed at the time.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Suddenly, "Oklahoma!" is not OK

An Oklahoma GOP state senator was found in a most compromising situation, as explained in this Towleroad story.

I suppose he could say he was tempted, or that the underage was mature for his age and wanted power over him (which was a point that Milo Yiannopoulos has made before, to the great offense of many people, who don’t know the term ephebophilia).

Oklahoma is OK, except when under the gun for F5 tornadoes.  When I lived in Dallas in the 80s, I got to know the state all too well.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Minors who use streaming sites may invite predators who collect their videos

Local station WJLA in Washington DC reports (Feb. 23) that people have been arrested for spying on minors who use the “Live me” and “Musical Ly” smart phone live streaming apps, for others.

Videos sometimes wind up in child pornography collections and some have been watermarked as known images.

Parents should supervise minors carefully when they use these (minimum age is supposed to be 16).

The Family Online Safety Institute seems to be alive and well, and was also mentioned on WJLA.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Explosive 1993 case about Trump had almost surfaced before election, at same time as Comey letter; more on Milo

A news report on Snopes (Nov. 4, by David Mikkelsen) was provided to me recently, regarding allegations that Donald Trump had unlawful activity with an under-consent-age female back in 1993, link here.   The headline claims that the most recent litigation was dropped in November 2016,  This happened November 4, four days before the election, and ironically two days before James Comey cleared Hillary Clinton on the secondary email scandal regarding the presence of her emails on a laptop associated with Anthony Weiner (himself under investigation for underage activity).

Trump can obviously say this is a dead issue, because legal due process has been followed and has cleared him.

Nevertheless, this is the sort of “scandal”, if factual, that could quickly lead to his removal from office

Ironically, this story was brought to my attention just before Milo Yiannopoulos’s world exploded yesterday based on the appearance (typical news account)  of video from the “Drunken Peasants “(sounds rather Bolshevist)  that “appears” to endorse sex between adult men and underage men.  I say “appears” because there is a lot of deception in the way this is being reported, which I won’t try to analyze right here – but see earlier posting Feb. 9),  All of this loops back to my own "implicit content" experience when I was substitute teaching back in 2005, which I have explained before (see main blog).

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Local Washington DC station reports on stepped up efforts to detect child pornography downloading in homes

Local station WUSA Channel 9 (CBS) in Washington DV aired a special report about new tools to detect users downloading child pornography.  The story by Andrea McCarren and 5-minute video are available here.
The deployment of the tools is sponsored by the Child Rescue Coalition, “Protection Innocence Through Technology”.

The technology apparently depends on automatic identification of images and videos with digital watermarks provided by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.  It is now possible to scan outgoing emails or image posts (as Google does) or even cloud services for these images.

But this particular group helps isolate IP addresses with larger numbers of flagged images.  They may be servers in businesses or private homes.  The IP addresses are posted to dashboards that are then turned over to law enforcement.  The next step is to get a subpoena from a state court to search the electronics in a home or business.

A location in Gaithersburg MD turned up 2700 files, one in Reston VA over 1000.

Some files tend to have descriptive names that tend to suggest the taste of the collectors, which have included babies or very young children.

There are “step-by-step manuals”, one that was over 170 pages.

A few years ago, Amazon had pulled a self-published “Pedophile’s Guide” after exposure on Anderson Cooper AC360.  

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Milo says that sometimes teens are aggressors in solicitation events in order to gain power over authorities

Milo Yiannopoulos has a rather shocking video from April 2016 where he seems to “admit” to “abuse” of sorts, apparently by members of the clergy, when he was a teenager.

Milo says he was the perpetrator at 14 in order to have “power” over adults (at 4:40 in the video).

That is like the setup of my screenplay “The Sub” which caused a major incident when I was substitute teaching (Main blog, July 27, 2007).  There is more than one point of view about this.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Backpage could cause Section 230 to unravel

Nicholas Kristof, a journalist who focuses on poverty and third-world issues, has an op-ed on p. A31 of today’s New York Times, “A Website Peddling Girls for Sex”.  He’s talking about

 The visitor can read the details here, but it seems that ads get edited to remove suggestions of underage girls.  Credit card companies have stopped accepting transactions from Backpage. '

Kristof suggests that Section 230 of the CDA should be modified to make service providers potentially liable for underage trafficking, but I thought that this exception already existed. Meddling with Section 230 for this purpose could lead to gutting it for other reasons in a Trump administration, because Trump is not sympathetic to simultaneous online self-expression (despite his own tweeting).

Electronic Frontier Foundation weighs in on the issue today in detail here, in an article by Sophia Cope.   This is a very slippery slope that we’ll have to return to again.

For the sordid details on the Senate hearings and Backpage, visit Techdirt and USA Today.

Remember Ashton Kutcher’s mantra: “Real men don’t buy girls.”

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Best Buy reported by Washington Post as working with FBI to turn in customers possessing child pornography

Tom Jackson has a shocking story on the front page of the Washington Post Tuesday, January 10, 2017, “If a Best Buy technician is a paid FBI informant, are his searches legal?

The specific story concerns a medical professional who turned in his laptop to a Geek Squad Best Buy outlet in California.  The customer wanted the data recovered and the old hard drive was sent to a facility in Kentucky.  A technician found an image of a pre-pubescent female in an unallocated space on the hard drive.  The article notes that a federal appeals court recently upheld “mens rea” in a case like this;  you can’t prove that the customer put it there (it could have come from malware) if in an unallocated area.  Nevertheless, the consumer was indicted in 2014 (after a long delay).

A typical Geek Squad repair order contains the language “I am on notice that any product containing child pornography will be turned over to the authorities.”  I have seen this on my own orders.

There would be a question as to how a technician sees an illegal image unless he looks for them.

 Most repairs would not cause a technician to have a legitimate reason to look at drive contents.  (Compare this to photo shops when technicians develop pictures, which used to lead to some child pornographt prosecutions.)  But it would sound plausible that the FBI could enter into an agreement with a business to conduct a sting operation against a customer for which there is some prior reasonable suspicion.  Images viewable in thumbnails from Windows explorer would not normally be that easy to parse at casual, happenstance first sight.

There are good questions as to what could be viewed as c.p., and when authorities would move on a content item.  Images might have come from overseas, and have been produced legally according to the laws of the originating country, but would have been illegal to make in the US (if the actor was under 18).  There are vagaries in the law as to how explicit an image needs to be to inspire gratuitous pruient interest.  It’s possible that an image (screenshot) from a film, of minor nudity legal in a medical context or war or extreme poverty overseas, could be captured and kept for prurient personal purposes, and be viewed as illegal, but I haven’t heard of this actually happening with a specific prosecution or indictment. Theoretically, legal problems could occur with a possession of an image from a video included in another website but not made public on its own.

Update: Jan 11

WJLA-7 reported the story tonight and says it is possible that the image could have been in an unopened email. But it probably would have needed to be in some kind of preview mode. I don't preview my emails automatically and mark many as spam and don't open a lot of them.  But I have no idea what could be in unopened emails..

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Virginia delegate wants pornography declared a public health problem

A member of the Virginia House of Delegates (Robert Marshall, R-Prince William County) wants to have pornography declared a public health hazard, something akin to cigarette smoking (note the irony, as Philip Morris lies on I-95 just south of Richmond), according to Laura Vozella in the Washington Post December 29, link.

He claims that pornography leads to mistreatment of women, and also to body image disorders (like body dysmorphia), which are surprisingly common even in young men.

Of course, some of this fits into debates in the past over COPA (availability of pornography to children online) and earlier, the CDA.

Utah has already declared a public health crisis over pornography.

The measure would not criminalize anything but consider public health warnings.
Virginia already has a controversy over public school teaching literary classics with sexually explicit or racist passages (like “Huck Finn”).