Amid a summer of protest that may or may not continue into the next administration – and an era of social media trolling – Republican senators introduced legislation to make it a crime to dox a government official or their family members.
"No public servant should be endangered or subject to harassment for doing their job," Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., a co-author of the Public Servant Protection Act of 2020, said in a statement.
"But as activist mobs increasingly target elected officials and police officers, additional protection is warranted. Our bill will help shield government workers and officials by increasing penalties on malicious actors and protecting workers' personal information."
Specifically, the bill gives all government employees, elected officials, and appointees at all levels (federal, state, local, and tribal) the right to have their home addresses and phone numbers — or the home addresses and phone numbers of their immediate family members — removed from any publicly displayed website.
The bill also makes it a criminal offense to post a government official's (or their immediate family members) home address or phone number with the intent to cause them physical harm. Penalties would include a fine and up to a year in prison or, if injury or death results, up to life in prison.
"Law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and judges already serve the public at tremendous risk," Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., a co-signer of the bill, said in a statement. "They should not be forced to live with the added fear of having their personal home information widely available on the Internet for use by violent criminals. Empowering these officials to keep their personal information private will help protect our protectors and their families."
The bill's other signatories include both Georgia Senate runoff incumbents, Sens. David Perdue, R-Ga., and Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., along with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Sens. John Boozman, R-Ark., and Rick Scott, R-Fla.
"Now more than ever, the law enforcement community needs our support," Perdue said in a statement. "The 'defund the police' movement pushed by radical Democrats has led to an alarming increase in attacks on police officers, and their families. No public servant should ever be targeted for doing his or her job. I will always stand with our law enforcement officers as they work to keep our communities safe."
The bill seeks to protect public servants from cancel culture activists, Loeffler added.
"Law enforcement, government officials and prosecutors have dedicated their lives to serving our communities," Loeffler said in a statement. "Unfortunately, fueled by today's Left wing aggressive cancel culture agenda, their service and livelihoods are under attack. As a strong supporter of our men and women who swear an oath to protect and serve, I'm proud to join my colleagues in this effort to prevent dedicated government officials at all levels from being targeted or attacked for doing their jobs."
In July 2020, U.S. District Judge Esther Salas was targeted by a man who came to her home and killed her husband and son when they answered the door. This year, anti-police rhetoric, law enforcement officer deaths, and targeting have also increased. Mobs of activists have even targeted officials at their homes.
This bill is also endorsed by the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, the Major Cities Chiefs Association, and the National District Attorneys Association, according to Cotton.
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