FRANKFORT, Kentucky — It would be a crime in Kentucky to spread personal information of a minor online with the intent to harass, abuse or frighten, under a bill the state Senate passed Monday.
The legislation stems from an interaction between Kentucky teenager Nick Sandmann and a Native American activist that went viral in early 2019.
Sandmann, a student at Covington Catholic High School in northern Kentucky, was the target of a barrage of social media comments after the interaction in Washington, D.C., was posted online, said Republican Sen. Chris McDaniel, the bill’s sponsor.
The actions of Sandmann and his classmates were intensely debated after video and photographs emerged of them wearing “Make America Great Again” hats near a Native American man playing a drum.
Both Sandmann and the Native American man, Nathan Phillips, say they were trying to defuse tensions rising among groups on a day when Washington hosted both the March for Life, attended by the Kentucky students, and the Indigenous Peoples March. Video of the encounter showed Sandmann and Phillips standing close to each other.
It’s the second straight year that Kentucky lawmakers have considered the “anti-doxing” bill. Doxing is the practice of publicizing someone’s personal identifying information online to subject them to harassment. Under the bill, the information can include a person’s name, Social Security number, date of birth, home address, email address, phone number and school and employment locations.
The measure passed the Senate on a 30-6 vote Monday and now goes to the House, where a similar bill died last year. Both chambers are controlled by Republicans.
Under the bill, it would be a misdemeanor to disseminate such personal information about a minor if it leads to the youngster’s “reasonable fear” of injury. The offense would become a felony if the doxing effort results in injury to the minor or financial loss to the youngster or his or her family.
“It is a simple, common-sense step to say you can disagree with someone … but you don’t have the right to use online platforms to attempt to harass someone with a real fear of bodily injury because you’re giving out their home address, where they go to school and inciting people to go and to do damage to them, to their family, to their property,” McDaniel said.
Morgan McGarvey, the Senate’s top-ranking Democrat, was among the bill’s opponents. He said the bill’s language is too broad, pointing to the location of a school as personal identifying information.
“That means if another kid posts a picture of one of their classmates online wearing a school T-shirt, they have published personally identifying information,” he said.
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