New Senate Bill Would Turn Online Services Into Narcs
Drug war nostalgia got you down? Do you miss the police state evolving around you to combat people’s desire to get high instead of the vague threats of terrorism or “domestic extremism”? Well, a bipartisan cabal of senators offers just what you need! These lawmakers are sponsoring legislation to force online services to monitor and report any mentions you make of illicit intoxicants. It’s a terrible idea that builds on earlier drug policy errors.
“The Cooper Davis Act…requires communication service providers to report to the DEA on the sale or distribution of illicit drugs including fentanyl, methamphetamine, or a counterfeit controlled substance,” boasts Sen. Roger Marshall (R–Kan.) of S.1080, introduced (after a failed effort last year) on March 30 with co-sponsors Richard Durbin (D–Ill.), Chuck Grassley (R–Iowa), Amy Klobuchar (D–Minn.), Jeanne Shaheen (D–N.H.), and Todd Young (R–Ind.). The legislation “bolsters DEA’s existing data infrastructure to improve intelligence gathering on drug dealers operating across various online communication platforms.”
Bad Law Doubling Down on Bad Policy
The bill is named after Cooper Davis, a Kansas 16-year-old who died in 2021 after reportedly consuming counterfeit Percocet pills laced with fentanyl he and his friends purchased from a dealer they encountered on Snapchat. Understandably upset, his mother, Libby Davis, became an anti-drug activist. Marshall and company’s Cooper Davis Act, “to amend the Controlled Substances Act to require electronic communication service providers and remote computing services to report to the Attorney General certain controlled substances violations,” is the result. Unfortunately, it’s ill-considered legislation that would double down on bad policy to inflict greater surveillance on the country at large.
“The bill, named the Cooper Davis Act, is likely to result in a host of inaccurate reports and in companies sweeping up innocent conversations, including discussions about past drug use or treatment,” warns Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) staff attorney Mario Trujillo. “While explicitly not required, it may also give internet companies incentive to conduct dragnet searches of private messages to find protected speech that is merely indicative of illegal behavior.”
The legislation also continues down the prohibitionist path that brought us counterfeit pills of uncertain and often lethal potency. Black markets always rise to meet demand for illegal goods and services, but what they offer is rarely as reliable or safe as offerings from legal providers.
Blame Prohibition for Dangerously Powerful Drugs
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Article from Reason.com