Sunday, March 26, 2017

Utah declares pornography a public health crisis

Utah officially passed a resolution declaring pornography to be a public health crisis. Sounds good, right? People need to recognize that using pornography can have lasting negative effects.

S.C.R. 9 Concurrent Resolution on the Public Health Crisis says, in part:
WHEREAS, pornography is contributing to the hypersexualization of teens, and even prepubescent children, in our society;
WHEREAS, due to advances in technology and the universal availability of the Internet, young children are exposed to what used to be referred to as hard core, but is now considered mainstream, pornography at an alarming rate;
WHEREAS, the average age of exposure to pornography is now 11 to 12 years of age;
WHEREAS, this early exposure is leading to low self-esteem and body image disorders, an increase in problematic sexual activity at younger ages, and an increased desire among adolescents to engage in risky sexual behavior;
WHEREAS, exposure to pornography often serves as childrens' and youths' sex education and shapes their sexual templates;
Yes, porn can do serious damage.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Legislature of the state of Utah, the Governor concurring therein, recognizes that pornography is a public health hazard leading to a broad spectrum of individual and public health impacts and societal harms.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Legislature and the Governor recognize the need for education, prevention, research, and policy change at the community and societal level in order to address the pornography epidemic that is harming the people of our state and nation. 
Utah isn't all resolution and no action, though. They also passed HB0155, creating a law that:

  • requires that a computer technician who finds child pornography in the course of the technician's work shall report the finding to law enforcement or the federal Cyber Tip Line for child pornography; ...
  • provides that the willful failure to report the child pornography is a class B misdemeanor;
  • provides immunity for a computer technician who reports in good faith or acting in good faith does not make a report
As if we don't have enough people in our criminal justice system already, now we are going to add computer technicians who don't report images that are or could be considered child pornography.

The law provides immunity for a tech who...acting in good faith does not make a report. How do they decide if the tech is acting in good faith? 

The law says:

good faith may be presumed from an employee's or employer's previous course of conduct when the employee or employer has made appropriate reports

...which means, the more people a tech reports, the safer the tech will be if he or she decides not to report someone.

What child pornography will computer technicians most likely encounter? In a world where nearly every teen carries a phone with a camera and in a world where, as the Utah resolution says, there is an increased desire among adolescents to engage in risky sexual behavior, it is probable that computer techs will discover nude selfies of teens.

Yes, that is considered child pornography and someone in possession of those images can be charged with receiving, distributing, or creating child porn. Serious crimes that carry serious mandatory minimum sentences if charged in federal court. If computer techs report the images to the federal Cyber Tip Line, it is likely that the "crime" will be a federal crime.

How badly do we want to punish teens for what is, for better or worse, normal teen behavior? Do we want a world in which teens take nude selfies ... or a world in which teens take nude selfies and have a criminal record?

Is criminalization the only way to discourage unwanted behavior? We saw what happened during Prohibition, when criminalization drove the booze industry underground where violence was the only enforcer. We have seen what forty years of the War on Drugs has gotten us: the recreational drug industry is driven underground where violence is the only enforcer and where illicit drugs are still widely available, less expensive than ever, and often more powerful. 

We know what the outcome will be and yet legislators still try the same failed trick of making unwise and unwanted behavior illegal.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

did Milo Yiannopoulos really defend pedophilia?

As we have all heard by now, that awful, awful man defended pedophilia. Milo Yiannopoulos lost a plum speaking engagement at CPAC, a book deal with Simon & Schuster, and the tolerance of all decent people when he spoke his mind about you know what. Today, he resigned from his job at Breitbart.

Yiannopoulos, in fact, did not defend pedophilia, though the media didn't let that stand in the way of breathless reporting. Below is an example from the New York Times.
After the video was leaked on Twitter by a conservative group called the Reagan Battalion, Mr. Yiannopoulos denied that he had ever condoned child sexual abuse, noting that he was a victim himself. He blamed his “British sarcasm” and “deceptive editing” for leading to a misunderstanding. 
But in the tape, the fast-talking polemicist is clear that he has no problem with older men abusing children as young as 13, which he then conflates with relationships between older and younger gay men who are of consenting age.
“No, no, no. You’re misunderstanding what pedophilia means,” Mr. Yiannopoulos says on the tape, in which he is talking to radio hosts in a video chat. “Pedophilia is not a sexual attraction to somebody 13 years old who is sexually mature. Pedophilia is attraction to children who have not reached puberty,” he adds, dismissing the fact that 13-year-olds are children. [My emphasis.]
...dismissing the fact that 13-year-olds are children. There. That is dishonest and manipulative.

Some 13-year-olds have gone through puberty and some have not and that difference is an important division when it comes to pedophilia. Whether we consider 13-year-olds to be children has nothing to do with pedophilia.

Yiannopoulos is correct. Pedophilia is an attraction to children who have not reached puberty, a fact dismissed by the reporters in their eagerness to impress upon their readers that Yiannopoulos must want to have sex with 13-year-olds.

It is clear that he did not defend pedophilia and yet headline after headline tells us he did.

Knowing that Yiannopoulus got this one unpopular fact right makes him more trustworthy than all the reporters and editors who dismiss truth that would get in the way of a salacious story.

Why is this important? The misunderstanding about pedophilia is used to label people who are not pedophiles. It is also used to drum up fear about those who actually are pedophiles but are not dangerous.

Speak up when pedophiles are demonized and when sex offenders are mislabeled by those who are too lazy or dishonest to get it right.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

scared and in danger of bad legislation

A state representative in Missouri wants a new law, one that will bar registered sex offenders from zoos and museums.
Registered sex offenders would be prohibited from being within 500 feet of any museum, zoo or “other location with the primary purpose of entertaining or educating children” younger than 18 years of age under legislation introduced by [state representative] Swan. 
The Cape Girardeau Republican’s bill would expand restrictions in existing state law that bars any convicted sex offender from entering or being within 500 feet of any public park that has playground equipment or a swimming pool, or within 1,000 feet of a school or child-care facility. 
Violators could face prison sentences.
Note that the prison sentence could be imposed on people who did nothing wrong except to be present in an area restricted by arbitrary laws, laws devoid of evidence that they make any one safer.
Swan said she also wants to bar sex offenders from hanging out near children’s sections of public libraries and children’s play areas in shopping malls.
What prompted this hysteria?
...a “known, registered sexual offender came to the Discovery Playhouse unattended. Museum employees called the Cape Girardeau Police Department as the offender “roamed the facility,” [Isaac Venable, president of the museum’s board of directors] wrote.
Roamed the facility.
But police could not remove the person because “children’s museums are not protected” under state law, Venable said. 
“We felt confused and vulnerable,” he wrote. 
Oh, that poor, poor man. Imagine his confusion and vulnerability at the grocery store, a place that welcomes everyone.
“The safety of children visiting our facility is our greatest priority. A child can’t learn and explore the exhibits we provide if they are scared and/or in danger,” Venable said in backing the legislation.
Scared and in danger.

This man leads a museum meant to educate children and he has no idea what children can do when they are scared and/or in real danger. In some areas of the world, communities fight to keep schools open in the midst of war. In those areas, the education of their children is their greatest priority, not their safety.

This man seems to think much less of Missouri children and their abilities to deal with fear.

What fear is he talking about, though? The fear he himself generates by not knowing facts about the sex offender registry. That fear.

The registrant roaming the museum did nothing frightening. There are no reports of frightened children, only the report from a man frightened by his own ignorance.


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

living on Mars: the 'pro' column

Scientists prepare for the rigors of space travel. (Warning: turn off your speakers; the website uses annoying autoplay ads. Really annoying.)
Six carefully selected scientists have entered a man-made dome on a remote Hawaii volcano as part of a human-behavior study that could help NASA as it draws up plans for sending astronauts on long missions to Mars. ...
They will have no physical contact with people in the outside world and will work with a 20-minute delay in communications with their support crew, or the time it would take for an email to reach Earth from Mars.
An email can travel from Mars to Earth in 20 minutes.

It took at least a couple of hours for an email sent to or from a federal inmate to reach its destination here on Earth, no matter how innocuous the contents.

Monday, January 16, 2017

why do so many Customs and Border Protection applicants fail polygraphs?

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection is having a little trouble hiring enough agents.
Two out of three applicants to CBP fail its polygraph test, according to the agency. That’s more than double the average rate of eight law enforcement agencies that provided data to the Associated Press under open-records requests. 
It's a big reason approximately 2,000 jobs at the nation's largest law enforcement agency are empty, with the Border Patrol, a part of CBP, recently slipping below 20,000 agents for the first time since 2009. And it has raised questions of whether the lie detector tests are being properly administered.
Here's a good question: What is the proper way to administer a famously inaccurate test?
CBP Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske said the failure rate is too high, but that is largely because the agency hasn't attracted the applicants it wants.
Not the fault of the test, then. Perhaps the Craig's List item wasn't clear that the Border Patrol wants honest applicants and so they have been flooded with dishonest, even criminal applicants. An honesty mistake, one might say.
But others, including lawmakers, union leaders and polygraph experts, contend that the use of lie detectors has gone awry and that many applicants are being subjected to unusually long and hostile interrogations, which some say can make people look deceptive even when they are telling the truth. 
Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona said he suspects CBP examiners fail applicants to justify their own jobs. He said he worries applicants are being wrongly branded with a "scarlet letter" in the eyes of other potential government employers.
While the idea that polygraph examiners are failing two-thirds of CBP applicants in order to keep their own jobs is intriguing, I am more interested in Senator Flake's recognition that a polygraph falsely labeling the applicant as a liar will make it nearly impossible for that person to be hired by other government agencies.
Kerlikowske explained that CBP isn't getting the applicants it wants because the relatively new agency, created in 2003, "doesn't have a brand" and is unfamiliar to some. 
Sure, that must be it. The fault lies with the applicants who are unaware that a nearly 14-year-old federal agency charged with enforcing federal laws is looking for honest applicants.
Among other possible reasons offered by some experts for the agency's failure rate: CBP may have higher standards than local departments, and it gets less-experienced applicants who have never taken a lie detector before.
Does that mean that taking a previous lie detector test makes a person more likely to pass? How is that possible if the test does what we are told it does?

Relying on an unreliable test to determine the accuracy of one's answers seems a little nuts.

Defending the polygraph by blaming the applicants seems even nuttier.






Sunday, January 1, 2017

look at these strange women who stay with sex offenders!

Inside Edition ran a story by Maya Chung about women who stay in relationships with sex offenders.

My first thought is that I cannot remember seeing the same kind of curiosity about those mysterious people who stay in relationships with someone who stole cars or committed fraud or beat the convenience store clerk. The assumption in those cases seems to be that spouses will stay or go based on individual choices. Some people stay with car thief spouses and some leave.

Chung details a couple of relationships between sex offenders and their wives.

Josh and Susan:
"My husband came home early one day after having a big fight over the weekend and he caught Josh and me in the shower,” Susan said. “I did try to end our relationship a few times but the chemistry was just so strong that it was hard to let each other go. I didn’t mean for it to happen."
Jerry and Melissa:
She met Jerry at a charity event in 2006 – 17 years after his second offense. She said they became friends before becoming romantically involved. When he told her his status on the registry soon after they began dating, and she made a conscious decision to stay with him.
As with love stories told by other couples, some stories are boring, some are mildly interesting, some are sweet and some are a little shocking. 
While it may seem surprising to many, some women are willing to go through being outwardly shunned by family and their communities in the defense of the men because to them, love trumps all. 
Women--and men--have always been willing to go through hell for people they love. How is this surprising?
Their experiences being in a relationship with a sex offender may be different, but these women have another thing in common: An undeniable faith in their men.
Yes, being in a relationship with a registered citizen offers a different experience. A parent can lose custody of his or her children; neighbors will make terrible assumptions and gossip about them; family members cut ties.

All because a name is on a list.

Because a name is on a list, there is a real risk of prison time for missing a paperwork deadline. Most families of former lawbreakers do not have to live with that hanging over their heads.

Sex offenders are not fearsome monsters. They are people who committed crimes, made terrible choices, or got caught up in surprising circumstances. Spouses and partners can continue to love or dislike them, trust or mistrust as they choose, based on whether they are good parents, good cooks, good lovers, or based on any criteria that mean something to a specific couple.

There is no default 'Abandon Ship' setting on relationships with registered sex offenders, just as there is no default setting on relationships with adulterers or with people who cheat on taxes or with people who are boring or snore too much or are overweight.

We all see relationships that don't make sense to us. Why does he stay with her? Has he not seen what a tyrant she can be at the PTA meetings? Why does she stay with him? Does she not know that he has never in his life had a generous moment?

The reason we look at spouses and partners of sex offenders as something exotic is because the registry encourages the false idea that registered citizens are dangerous.

Abolish the registry.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

pulling misused images of a child off the Internet

How would you react if you learned that pictures of your kids were available on child porn websites? Most of us would be desperate to stop the abuse, desperate to find out who the abuser is, and desperate to pull those photos from the Internet.

Here is the story of a mother chasing down photos of her daughter, photos that were not pornographic. The little girl was photographed with Hillary Clinton and Clinton opponents turned the photo into a meme that included statements the mother didn't want associated with her daughter. The mother fought back against what she saw as offensive use of her daughter's image.
...more than a year later — the day after Clinton lost the election and as Jones was processing her own grief over the loss — their treasured photo was turned into something sinister. Someone had taken the photo, originally uploaded to the Clinton campaign Flickr page, and turned it into a meme that was then shared thousands of times across social media. 
Bold white type across the top of the image read, “I AM FOR WOMEN’S RIGHTS!” Then halfway down, text covering the lower half of Sullivan’s body accused Clinton of accepting money and refugees from countries “that would mutilate this girl’s genitals, marry her to a Muslim pedophile, and stone her to death if she doesn’t wear a bedsheet.”
The message turned the little girl's picture into something ugly and by the time her mother realized how it had been used, much time had passed.
...she searched for the photo online and found thousands of blogs and feeds on Instagram and Pinterest and Facebook that shared the image. She believed what she’d always been told: Once something is on the Internet, it’s there forever.
“I felt like I failed her,” Jones said. “As a mother, your job is to protect and fix things, and I wasn’t able to fix it. I’ve never felt so low in my life with this image being out there that I had no control over.”
Parents who learn that a pornographic image of their child is available on the Internet surely feel a similar helplessness.
She traced one photo to a Facebook page, “Men for Donald Trump,” which has more than 200,000 followers. She implored them to take it down. At first they resisted, but after dozens of her friends bombarded them with messages, they obliged. It was a victory, but a small one. That was only one site. There were countless more. Was it even possible to go to each one and make the same request?
If a parent tried to search out pornographic images of his or her child, the parent would be committing the crime of downloading child pornography.
Several days later, she posted about it on Pantsuit Nation, the Facebook group of more than 3 million that started as a secret pro-Clinton page and has morphed into a massive online community where people share stories and seek support. Jones asked if they could help her report the image one-by-one. 
Imagine asking millions of people to help you find images of your child on child porn websites. How quickly do you think law enforcement would be at your door?
Soon messages poured into her inbox offering help. This person knew someone at Pinterest who could help; another had a contact at the Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Then she got a message from Shaun Kozolchyk, the San Francisco director of development for the Anti-Defamation League. 
“I am a mother of my own two daughters. I was so horrified and deeply affected by that post and knew the work we do at ADL could be a space that could be helpful,” Kozolchyk said. 
She contacted a colleague who works on cyber-hate response issues, who immediately verified that the Clinton campaign held the copyright to that photo. Any unauthorized use of it was against the law. The ADL sent a take-down notice to the originating sites and, soon after, it disappeared from the Internet.
What a relief that must be--a relief that parents of children in child porn images will not feel. After a child porn user is arrested, the child porn images are still available. When child porn sites are discovered, law enforcement may not shut it down immediately, allowing users to continue downloading images.
“When I got all this response from all these people from all over the country, it’s going to sound cheesy, but it felt like this giant blue blanket of love wrapped over me, and I didn’t feel alone anymore,” Jones said. “There were so many people, who said, ‘we got you.’” 
But what happened next gives Jones reason to believe her fight had a wider cause. When she shared again on Pantsuit Nation what the ADL had been able to do, others started coming forward saying their child’s image had been used in a meme. They just didn’t think there was anything they could do about it.
This mom is spreading hope to other parents who want to fight back against those who misuse images of their children. Parents who want to do the same with pornographic images of their child are out of luck. No hope for them.

Child porn laws prevent parents from stopping the dissemination of images of their children. The images, which may be the only evidence of child sex abuse crimes, are driven underground, making it harder to find them and harder to identify who created the images. Children who are abused for porn production are left with no protection, no giant blue blanket of love, no one who says we got you.

The laws concentrate on punishing those who would use child porn; the lawmakers ignore the dangerous consequences of driving the images underground.

Which is more offensive? The knowledge that someone is using the images for sexual gratification or the knowledge that someone is abusing a child?

What awful helplessness is caused by well-meaning laws.


Related, a post from October 2013: when embarrassing pictures go viral