The State of Social Media and “News”: A Message from the Vice-President of I&F

Happy New Year 2017! If any of you are like me, the flood of “news” we received on through social media in 2016 left my head spinning and created a new level of frustration with what is clearly uninformed and irresponsible “reporting.”  Countless times over the past several months, I’ve had to debate with people on what is and is not true, much of which was started by a social media post.  As I’ve told friends and family, there are ignorant people everywhere, and some of them write social media and blog posts!  (You are fortunate in subscribing to the I&F blog that we have no ignorant or uninformed bloggers!)

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Which then brings me to what was finally the trigger to influence the writing me writing this blog about this troubling issue of social media and fake news.  I received a copy of a blog that is currently trending social media, and with the headline, “CA Democrats Usher in 2017 By Making Child Prostitution Legal” as you will see below once you’ve finished reading my responsible blog.  It is no doubt getting thousands of v

iews with that “headline.”  It is just one of thousands of similar sensationalizing headlines much akin to the last generation print seen on The National Enquirer and similar tabloids.

Now most of us, at least I would hope most of us, would read that headline, then re-read that headline and then say, “That cannot be true; it makes no sense.”  But what we are seeing currently is that so many do not have time or the desire to read past the stated headline and simply take the headline as news.  And I now anticipate a social gathering where I will be asked about California legalizing childhood prostitution.  (Funny?  True.)  Finding the good in most, I have to believe that the blogger wants you to question this and then read on, which is what I did.  (Chalk up another view for the blogger!)   What I had thought would be a pretty benign blog after successfully drawing me in with this ridiculous headline was not what I found.

What I found angered me to the point of blurting out the “WTF?!”  (Only I did not say, “WTF”)  The blogger actually reported that child prostitution will soon be legal in California, and what are the state legislators thinking?!  More accurately, to this blogger (whose name I will not print here but is atop her blog), what are you thinking in misstating the facts and reporting it as news?!

Let’s face it, in these politically charged and inflammatory times, some people have put a spin on everything. Some are just lazy.  And in this blog, we have what sounds what that is not.  So being one not to take news at face value (even with mainstream media these days), I reviewed the actual bill, and rather than reprint the entire bill, which you can see here.

I provide just the digest (ie summary intent) of the bill:

DIGEST: This bill (1) provides that a minor engaged in commercial sexual activity will not be arrested for a prostitution offense; (2) directs a law enforcement officer who comes upon a minor engaged in a commercial sexual act to report the conduct or situation to county social services as abuse or neglect; and (3) provides that a commercially sexually exploited child (CSEC) may be adjudged a dependent child of the juvenile court and taken into temporary custody to protect the minor’s health or safety.

So California Senate bill 1322 is actually designed so that minors put into sex trafficking are not prosecuted like adult prostitutes (who are, I guess, presumed to all be voluntarily engaged in that trade, but that opens a whole other debate) and allows the state to put them into protective custody to get them out of the trade.  Technically, under current law, the state has no clear means to get them away from sex traffickers, some of whom are actually parents or legal custodians with rights over those minors.  Also, this new bill does nothing to protect the scum that put the minors into this trade and those who solicit minors for sex.  They are, should be and will still be fully accountable under the existing law.

Now go ahead and read that blog post.

While the headline has certainly brought her blog a lot of views, the truly irresponsible “reporting” seen in this as in thousands and thousands of posts, tweets and blogs worldwide is an epidemic for which the only solution presently is responsible reading and sharing.  Just remember: the world is full of ignorant people; some choose to be bloggers (just not bloggers at Inman & Fitzgibbons).

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G. Steven Murdock has been an attorney with Inman & Fitzgibbons for 20 years, a partner for 13 of those and named Vice President in 2015. He also serves as the firm’s liaison to the Illinois Chamber of Commerce’s Employment Law Council’s Workers Compensation Committee and monitors and provides input on pending legislation in Springfield affecting our practice.

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