The Exploiting Exploited Children to Spy on Everyone Act

[Trigger warning for child sex abuse.]

One of the greatest ironies of the rape culture is that when legislative bodies, who typically spend their time diligently ignoring victims of sexual violence and exploitation, suddenly make an effort to pay attention to sex crimes, they use the existence of sexual violence and exploitation to pass sweeping (and grossly ineffective in sex crime prevention) legislation that gives the government more access to and control over people's lives.

See, for example, sex predator registries which fail utterly to make distinctions between someone who has raped children or a nonconsenting adult and someone who has been convicted of statutory rape of a consenting partner one year younger, i.e. a teenage dating relationship on either side of the age of consent, most of which end up getting prosecuted only because the teens are caught by cops in public, e.g. doing it in the backseat of a car, or because the younger teen's parents don't like the older boy/girlfriend (or their race, or their sexuality). I don't guess I need to explain why I don't believe a young gay man reported for statutory rape by his boyfriend's bigoted parents who accuse him of "recruiting" their son belongs on a sex predator registry.


Over at The Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf writes about the latest legislation of this flavor, the Protecting Children from Internet Pornographers Act of 2011, which Friedersdorf aptly describes as "arguably the biggest threat to civil liberties now under consideration in the United States. The potential victims: everyone who uses the Internet."
[The bill would require] the firm that sells you Internet access would be required to track all of your Internet activity and save it for 18 months, along with your name, the address where you live, your bank account numbers, your credit card numbers, and IP addresses you've been assigned.

Tracking the private daily behavior of everyone in order to help catch a small number of child criminals is itself the noxious practice of police states. Said an attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation: "The data retention mandate in this bill would treat every Internet user like a criminal and threaten the online privacy and free speech rights of every American." Even more troubling is what the government would need to do in order to access this trove of private information: ask for it.

I kid you not -- that's it.

As written, The Protecting Children from Internet Pornographers Act of 2011 doesn't require that someone be under investigation on child pornography charges in order for police to access their Internet history -- being suspected of any crime is enough. (It may even be made available in civil matters like divorce trials or child custody battles.) Nor do police need probable cause to search this information. As Rep. James Sensenbrenner says, (R-Wisc.) "It poses numerous risks that well outweigh any benefits, and I'm not convinced it will contribute in a significant way to protecting children."
When James Sensenbrenner is the voice of reason, you know the train has derailed. But he's right: There's absolutely no way that this proposed legislation, which has passed out of committee and awaits a House vote, is going to be a meaningful contribution to sex crimes prevention. And the suggestion is so absurd that I can only believe its sponsors, including Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH), who claims on his website to be "an outspoken defender of individual privacy rights," hope that no one will dare to question this vast expansion of the government's ability to snoop on its citizens because that egregious encroachment of civil liberties is being proposed under the auspices of "protecting children."

I couldn't more want effective sexual violence and exploitation prevention initiatives in this country (most of which would not be legislative in nature), but this is garbage. It won't protect children from predators, and it sure as shit doesn't protect them from their government.

[H/T to Shaker Sofia.]

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