For quite a while, there were only a few voices willing to take the heat for calling out the efforts of our favorite censorious shrews, Miami lawprof (but non-lawyer) Mary Anne Franks and Maryland lawprof Danielle Citron, to promote anti-revenge porn crimes. They shamelessly lied (as opposed to “were mistaken”) to the public about the First Amendment because they had a goal to achieve, and only by promoting ignorance could they hope to achieve the level of legal stupidity needed.
The claim was that their anti-revenge porn crimes did not violate the First Amendment. The claim was a flagrant lie, but they were law professors, supposed scholars, so who could question them? Trench lawyers? We’re not scholars, after all, and when it comes to the people upon whom we rely for deep thought, don’t scholars win?
In the beginning, Franks claimed that Eugene Volokh supported her law, and agreed that it was not unconstitutional. That was a lie, and Franks quietly dropped Eugene’s name from her promotion as if she never said it. By avoiding confrontation with anyone who would challenge or question her, she was able to continue to deny her lies each time she was caught.
But if Franks and Citron were lying, where were the other scholars, the ones who possessed intellectual integrity? Why were they not calling out their “colleagues” for being shameless liars? At the time, the answer was that they were cowards, unwilling to buck a nasty and vicious lawprof who wouldn’t hesitate to attack them, and who was on the right side of gender politics in academia.
They weren’t willing to endure being called racists and misogynists in the name of intellectual honesty. They assumed that someone else would do the dirty work, take down these lying and pandering fools. Someone like, well, trench lawyers who didn’t care what nasty names they were called by lying lawprofs.
Eventually, it happened. Too little, too late, but it happened. First, it was Northwestern University lawprof Andrew Koppelman, who stated the obvious, that Franks’ and Citron’s anti-revenge laws were obviously unconstitutional. Then came Pace lawprof John Humbach, again stating the obvious. Neither was antagonistic to the underlying problem, but both made quick work of the lie that an anti-revenge porn crime didn’t violate the First Amendment.
But the lies kept piling up, because lies have a tendency to do that. In an ironic twist, a list of “heroes who saved the internet” appeared, including a staunch advocate for free speech, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, together with Franks and her faithful sidekick, Carrie Goldberg.
While Franks travels the country crafting legislation and consulting with leading tech companies to help them update policies regarding revenge porn (something Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, and Google all did this year), her CCRI colleagues are fighting on the ground.
Attorney Carrie Goldberg handles an impressive caseload as one of the only lawyers in the country expertly versed in the emerging legal field where digital privacy law intersects with harassment and abuse.
Goldberg’s superpower allows her to “paralyze trolls” and “conjure protective force fields around trauma victims,” she told the Daily Dot. She also wins cases—and as CCRI’s only practicing attorney, she brings a “down and dirty litigation perspective” to the board. In 2015, Goldberg worked with victims (of revenge porn, sexual assault and harassment, and related issues as pertaining to online abuse) in 21 criminal cases in addition to her usual roster of family court cases.
All of this would be remarkably impressive, if it was true. When is the last time a lawyer for victims won a criminal case? That’s right, it doesn’t work that way; it’s total nonsense. Worse still, when Goldberg might have actually contributed something of worth, she failed miserably. But she’s a hero, even if it’s a lie.
So is it all a lie? Are there no heroes? Is there no one who not only tells the truth, but actually does something that protects constitutional rights? Indeed, there is, but you won’t find them on the list.
Foremost is Mark Bennett, who has persuaded Texas courts to hold five laws unconstitutional over the last three years. He has offered his services to lawyers in a long list of states, pro bono, to challenge unconstitutional crimes. He is prepared to roam the nation to undo the damage of self-promoting heroes like Franks, Citron and Goldberg.
But he’s not alone. Lawyers like Ron Coleman and Bruce Godfrey have also, pro bono, defended those whose constitutional rights were attacked. Marc Randazza represented victims of revenge porn long before Goldberg knew how to find a courthouse. Adam Steinbaugh did the hard work of unearthing the scoundrels who harmed others. And, of course, Ken White put up the Popehat signal whenever free speech was at risk.
Not only are their names nowhere to be found on lists of heroes, puff pieces about saviors, or scholarly law review articles explaining the pathetically obvious, that there are lawprofs and activists hellbent on undermining the Constitution, while failing to actually help anyone harmed by the underlying wrong. These are lawyers who quietly save your freedoms, actually help victims who were harmed, all without lying about it, making people stupider or using it to promote themselves as saviors or martyrs. These are trench lawyers doing their job, doing it well, doing it for free, without expecting anyone to build a statue of them.
There are heroes who save the internet. There are heroes who save the Constitution. There are heroes who save victims of harm. But you won’t know about them because they aren’t out there lying about themselves, lying about their cause, lying about the law. They are just trench lawyers, doing what they have to do, to help. You should know they exist, and they will fight for all of us while people like Franks do their harm:
“In all of my work, I continue to challenge elitist and sexist interpretations of free speech and privacy,” Franks told the Daily Dot, “that ignore the silencing and surveillance effects of online harassment on women and minorities.”
There is no depth of deceit and stupidity to which the shameless won’t go. Thankfully, there are lawyers like Bennett, resolute defenders of the Constitution, who will “continue to challenge” their censorious efforts to eviscerate “elitist and sexist interpretations of free speech.” Now you know.
Update: As was point out to me by Marc Randazza, the group with which Franks and Goldberg are so proudly associated, the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, had absolutely nothing to do with the takedowns of the major revenge porn “kingpins,” like Hunter Moore, Craig Britain, Eric Chanson and Kevin Bolleart.
The people who were instrumental in ending the harm these individuals caused weren’t Franks and Goldberg, but Randazza, White and Steinbaugh. And these heroes lacked even the grace to recognize that these guys did all the work, while they were busy patting themselves on the back and giving interviews about their superpowers.