Tag: Internet

Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017 (H.R 1865)

Fighting sex trafficking is not a new endeavor. In the world’s dark history of slavery, sex trafficking has always been there.. As a nation, we have laws and penalties in place to prevent and punish such behavior but they are by no means foolproof. Enter into the law books, H.R. 1865, which will help close a glaring gap between old legislation and the fast-paced technological world we live in.

Way back in 1934, a law was passed in an attempt to protect mass media forms so they could flourish. For instance, a radio station couldn’t be held liable if they played a commercial that contained false advertising or if the product harmed others. From an industry standpoint, this makes perfect sense: media are in the business of spreading information, entertainment, etc. They are not in the business of verifying the products and services that pay them for advertising. In 1996, the Communications Act was amended to include websites so that they were also protected from liability for content that they published but was not actually created by them. As you can imagine, this protection was never meant to shield websites from publishing content which thereby facilitated in sex trafficking. And since you are legally responsible if you allow or facilitate underage-drinking in your home, no matter who supplied the alcohol, certainly we should hold websites liable for publishing content which facilitates criminal behavior. It’s just common sense.

H.R. 1865 will work to fix the current loophole by:

  1. Imposing a fine or up to 10 years in prison, or both
  2. For instances where 5 or more victims are involved and “reckless disregard” is shown, the prison term may be up to 25 years.
  3. Victims may be able to sue for damages and attorney fees in a U.S. district court
  4. Restitution will be ordered by the court when 5 or more victims are involved and this will be in addition to civil or criminal penalties.

As much as I hate to write it, there is a section which allows for an approved defense that the promotion or facilitation of sex trafficking is legal where it occurred. It makes me sick to my stomach that it’s legal ANYWHERE but that’s the globally connected world we live in.

This law is not meant to limit any charges brought under State law and the amendments will be apply to all violations of the law no matter if they happened before or after the enactment of this law. State Attorneys General also have the authority to bring civil action against violators of this law if they believe it has negatively affected the residents of their State.

In order to measure the success of this law, a report will be published 3 years after the law in enacted. This report will detail civil actions in which damages were awarded, actions in which damages were not awarded, all restitution ordered by the Court, and details regarding the status of every entity convicted of violating this law and whether or not they were ordered to pay restitution.

While this legislation is in regards to sex trafficking, not all human trafficking involves the sex trade. See below for possible indicators of trafficking victims. Contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline1-888-373-7888 to report a tip or ask questions. Information is also available on state.gov.

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What Is Your Computer Saying About You?

Clearly our computers and phones don’t speak (well, unless you count Siri, Cortana, and the like) but they do say an awful lot about us when we don’t even realize it. Have you ever gone through your browser history and deleted it because you didn’t want anyone to know what you were looking for? I have and I would be willing to bet you are in the same boat. I’m not saying anything immoral or criminal is going on but we don’t want others to accidentally see that we search for baby-making tips or a questionable rash when and if they borrow any of our devices.

The truth is, no matter how many times we delete our history, we have left digital footprints that we can’t erase. Cable and internet providers track what we do, even if the websites are encrypted. Granted, they see less when it’s encrypted, but it leaves a faint print anyway. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s helpful for law enforcement and service companies learn more about us which can, over time, help them tailor programming and services to our needs and likes. This can even help discover when someone has hacked into your service! A couple of months ago, my mother-in-law received a warning phone call from her internet provider that someone had illegally downloaded Dolly Parton’s song,¬†9 to 5. The irony of someone stealing a song about working your butt off is not lost on me. The important part was that she was able to explain that not only does she not have a desktop computer (and especially not the one with the IP address they had recorded) but this let her, and the company, know that she needed to change her passwords because someone was stealing the service she was paying for. Being a law-abiding citizen, this concerned my mother-in-law as to whether or not she would get in further trouble but I am happy to report that she, and Dolly Parton, have not been violated on her internet connection since!

But wait though… if the internet company can see all of that, is it a violation of my mother-in-law’s rights? We are in the information/digital/media/internet age, after all. Most of us are pretty aware that our internet use can be tracked, if for no other reason than you can’t even look for a warehouse-sized container of toilet paper on Amazon without suddenly seeing rolls of white, bears wiping their butts, and women knitting TP all over your screen. We can’t really call our internet use “intellectual property” although I tried REALLY¬†hard to rationalize it so we could say it was protected by law. It could be argued that internet service providers (ISPs) have a right to see how their service is being used. If you loaned something to a neighbor, you would want to know where they were going with it and when they will give it back. The same is true for these companies.

That being said, is it okay for companies to sell the information of our hard internet-surfing work? It is a by-product of our own time and can say a lot about us; everything from political opinions to financial information can be gathered. The House and Senate have passed a bill that will revoke a rule passed in the last few months of the Obama administrations which prohibits service providers from selling the information they collect from you. This does NOT apply to Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Bing, etc. Let’s acknowledge that if they can sell our information, it is unfair to keep the service providers from doing it. The rule which will no longer be in effect wasn’t even in effect yet, so I suppose you could say we haven’t gained or lost anything.

I get that we don’t want our information to be used for monetary gain or criminal purposes. ID theft seems just as inevitable as death and taxes these days and we don’t want to make that easier either. Nevertheless, we need to seriously consider how much we are willing to fight for this one small area of information, when much more personal information is being bought and sold. I am much more concerned about my medical information being sold than I am about my internet traffic between Facebook and Congress.gov. (Seriously, my browsing history is uber boring.) When sold, all of this personal data is separated from your personal identifying information. I have had my medical and pay information compromised via government-controlled systems several times since becoming an adult but never have I been notified that any information that had been sold could be tracked back to me and used to steal my identity.

If the concern is that money is being made from our online searching, it might be more profitable to turn that frustration into a movement to reduce the insane prices we pay for these services. I don’t think there is a such thing as a manure farm… but it sure happens a lot and it gets sold too. The manure is just a by-product, but it commands a price and I’m pretty sure farmers who like to sell it are going to be fairly angry if you come and take it. If you are an internet farmer… demand that when they sell info on the crap we search, a reverse fee be paid back to us! It will certainly help offset the fees on the bill that make no sense.