If you live in California, you've probably heard about Proposition 35, the Californians Against Sexual Exploitation ("CASE") Act. For those not familiar with Prop 35, it purports to do a few things:
- Strengthen the penalties for human trafficking (when convicted under state law).
- Require someone convicted of human trafficking to register as a sex offender.
- Requires sex offenders to provide all their Internet account credentials to law enforcement.
In the recent election, it passed with around 85% of the vote. It has since been challenged in court, and a judge has issued a temporary restraining order
blocking the Internet-tracking provisions from taking effect, finding that "Plaintiffs have raised serious questions about whether the challenged sections of the CASE Act violate their First Amendment right to free speech and other constitutional rights."
I think the court will eventually find that Prop 35 does, in fact, violate the rights of sex offenders, and should be partially overturned.
Prop 35's tracking provisions were ill-conceived by people who don't understand how the Internet works. Short of creating a wholesale surveillance state, there is no way to enforce its provisions in any meaningful way. The reason the Internet is so great for places like Iran, Egypt and China is because it is trivial to speak anonymously, and there is precious little the government can do to track your online activities.
Offenders who try to follow the law would have to bear the burden of reporting all this information to the government, and then suffer the government's monitoring and oversight. These are not the people you should be worried about -- they're already trying to do the right thing.
The people you should be worried about are the ones who would disregard Prop 35, and further
, would continue to prey on others over the Internet. But Prop 35 does nothing to protect you from those people, because it can't
It is not hard to open new Internet accounts and hide their existence from others. Normal people do it all the time, mostly for innocent reasons. And we as a society don't have the money to pay our local governments to scour the Internet looking for these nefarious accounts.
Basically, Prop 35 doesn't change the fact that our parents have a responsibility to monitor their kids' Internet usage, and educate them on the risks they face when going online. Indeed, short of banning the Internet outright, there is no conceivable law
that could change that.
As for the other (human-trafficking) provisions, human-trafficking statute is mostly set by the federal government. Prop 35 does not apply in those cases, since federal law trumps state law. According to the voter handbook, there are a grand total of 18 people in prison currently for state human-trafficking offenses
. Even if you believe that harsher sentences act as a more effective deterrent, Prop 35 does very little to achieve that aim.
Since most of the law's effect is centered in its Internet tracking provisions, and since the Internet tracking provisions themselves are both onerous and ineffective, I feel Prop 35 is on balance a bad law and should be repealed.