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Covington Catholic dad talks about 'Twitter mob' in testimony supporting Kentucky 'doxing' bill

Posted at 5:11 PM, Mar 06, 2019

FRANKFORT, Ky. — The father of a Covington Catholic High School student whose face appeared prominently in a viral video showing him up close with a Native American elder doesn't want anyone else to be "doxed" online.

Ted Sandmann testified in front of Kentucky lawmakers Wednesday to advocate for legislation that would make it a crime to share "personally identifying information about a minor" on the internet. The term "doxing," which is derived from an abbreviation of "documents," has become online shorthand for this behavior.

"My son, Nicholas Sandmann, was the victim of the most sensational Twitter attack on a minor child in the history of the internet," Sandmann said.

In an interview with WCPO, he called the aftermath of the incident "a nightmare" for his son.

"This is going to influence every job application, where he goes to college, what he's going to do the rest of his life," he said.

Todd McMurtry, an attorney representing Sandmann, said doxing can include "threats of physical violence enough to intimidate and put you in fear."

A Kentucky Senate committee voted 8 to 3 to advance the proposal — Senate Bill 240 — after hearing from Ted Sandmann, McMurtry and others.

"I believe legislation to criminalize the worst tendencies of the Twitter mob is vital to restoring public discourse," Sandmann said.

However, opponents of the bill said it would violate freedom of speech. Senate Minority Leader Morgan McGarvey called the bill "too far-reaching."

"We don't vote on concepts," McGarvey said. "We vote on legislation, and this legislation goes too far."

The January incident involving CovCath students drew widespread attention on social media. The Sandmann family filed a lawsuit against the Washington Post last month, alleging a "campaign to target Nicholas in furtherance of its political agenda was carried out by using its vast financial resources to enter the bully pulpit by publishing a series of false and defamatory print and online articles."

McMurtry said social media users must be held accountable.

"A lot of social media-type celebrities and news people retweeted his picture and the name of his school with a lot of glee and hatred," he said.

With six days left in the legislative session, the bill still needs approval from the Senate and the House as well as the governor's signature to become law.