A Kentucky state Senate committee just approved a bill to make “doxxing” anyone under the age of 18 a crime. If the bill becomes law, anyone who published a minor’s personal information (for instance, an address or school) with the intent to harass, abuse, or frighten them could be slapped with a misdemeanor charge.
The bill comes in the wake of Covington Catholic High School student Nick Sandmann, who was harassed online after a video seemed to show him wearing a red “Make America Great Again” (MAGA) hat and smugly gazing at Native American protester Nathan Phillips during an encounter in Washington, D.C. After Twitter users saw the video, Sandmann’s identity and high school quickly started to circulate online. As more videos of the interaction came out, it was clear the situation was more complicated than it at first seemed, and that other parties were involved and may have instigated things.
Now the teen claims he was wrongly vilified and is hoping that the Kentucky legislature will make it less likely for other teens to get stuck in the middle of a Twitter storm. While doxxing anyone, let alone a minor, is pretty lousy behavior, publishing or posting private someone’s private information without their consent already violates Twitter’s guidelines and will get accounts banned or suspended. But Sandmann’s father, at least, seemingly wouldn’t mind a bill that went further. According to NBC News, Sandmann’s father pointed to a tweet by former CNN host Reza Aslan that asked, “Honest question. Have you ever seen a more punchable face than this kid’s?” as a sign of his son’s online torment.
The bill still has to pass the state Senate and House of Representatives, and it’s unclear if it has the necessary support. After Wednesday, lawmakers will have just five legislative days left to pass bills before they adjourn for the year.
The Sandmann family isn’t stopping with a legislative fix to help all kids in Kentucky, though. According to NBC News, they are suing the Washington Post for $250 million for “falsely labeling Nick Sandmann as a racist” and are threatening legal action against several other media outlets, including the Associated Press.