Kentucky lawmakers advanced a bill that would make “doxing”—the deliberate broadcasting of others’ personal information online—a crime if done against anyone under the age of 18. At the same time, the father of Covington Catholic High School student Nicholas Sandmann delivered a powerful testimony.
Weeks after student Nicholas Sandmann spoke out on the viral encounter with a Native American protester, a Kentucky Senate committee voted 8 to 3 to advance the proposed Senate Bill 240 on March 6.
If the bill—which still needs approval from the Senate, House, and the governor—becomes law, it would make anyone publishing a minor’s personal information a misdemeanor. Such information could include addresses of the home or school attended by the victim that could be used to intentionally harass, abuse, or threaten the target.
“My son, Nicholas Sandmann, was the victim of the most sensational Twitter attack on a minor child in the history of the internet,” Ted Sandmann, the father of the student said in an emotional testimony.
Ted Sandmann, father of #CovCath student Nick Sandmann from that viral January video, begins testimony on #SB240 reading a statement. This is about 45 of the first 50 seconds of the statement). #KYga19 @WHAS11 pic.twitter.com/CDDXE9FZyE
— Chris Williams (@chriswnews) March 6, 2019
Ted Sandmann, who testified in support of the bill, said his son became the victim of a barrage of online attacks after he was wrongly accused of being disrespectful to Native American protester Nathan Phillips and was vilified by the media as a racist. Later, footage of the full encounter was released.
“The evidence has proven all of the allegations against my son to be untrue,” Ted Sandmann said. “I believe legislation to criminalize the worst tendencies of the Twitter mob is vital to restoring public discourse.”
“It shows how far out-of-control social media has become,” he added.
Sandman’s family attorney, Todd McMurtry testified as well, delivering a sharp rebuke against social media companies that have come under fire for failing to combat abuse on their platforms. The word “doxing” was extracted from docs, an abbreviation for documents.
“There are no brakes on Twitter,” said McMurtry. “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.”
It’s uncertain if the bill will pass as there are just days left in the legislative session before they adjourn for the year. The Kentucky Senate committee easily approved the bill despite some concerns about free speech.
“We’re talking about minors,” McMurtry said. “We can’t let the internet be a wild environment where we can abuse minors at will.”
Lawyers for Nicholas Sandmann last month sued The Washington Post for $250 million in damages.
“Lin Wood and Todd McMurtry filed their first lawsuit on behalf of Nicholas Sandmann against The Washington Post,” the statement of claim announced on Feb. 19.
The claim stated that Lin and Todd will seek $250 million in both compensatory and punitive damages “for the harm so many have done to the Sandmann family.”
Lawyers on Feb. 1 also sent letters to more than 50 people and companies, including The New York Times, CNN, The Guardian, and NPR, as well as celebrities such as Bill Maher, Kathy Griffin, Jim Carrey, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). The letters urged the recipients to preserve records, including electronic ones, related to the incident.
McMurtry predicted that people will end up behind bars for their misleading or false comments.
“I think some people are going to be arrested,” he told The Epoch Times in a Feb. 3 phone call. “That’s what I’ve been told from reliable sources, from the police investigators.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.