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Shaun King Says Anonymous Troll Has 'Weaponized' NYC Dept Of Child Services Against Him

Dashed Arrow Courtesy ShaunKing.org

Shaun King, civil rights activist and columnist at The Intercept, says someone called Child Services on his family. King said he was about to watch his daughter perform in a musical when his building's doorman called to inform him that "a woman is here and she wants to talk to you about childcare for your kids." King asked the doorman to put her on the phone, and had the following exchange:

According to King, the ACS employee told him the report was made anonymously and they had no information on the person who filed it. ACS did not return our request for comment.

Today he posted a message from his wife on Medium about the incident.

"That some white supremacist or disgruntled person would waste the city’s limited resources to randomly call in false information that severely puts my family in harm’s way, and drive workers away from their important work, truly baffles me. We live in a sick and depraved world...There are likely many thousands of people who are delighted to make my family’s life difficult simply because of the work Shaun does. So while I have no desire to suggest that ACS workers should not do their job, I hope I am not expected to submit my children to the emotional trauma of being questioned by agents of the government every time a white supremacist or random crazy person decides to make trouble. "

Since his tweets yesterday, others have come forward to share similar experiences.

The notion that white supremacists would call Child Services as a tactic of harassment or retaliation is not unfounded. In 2016 the Daily Beast reported that so-called "alt-right" troll Mike Cernovich made this threat against the comedian Vic Berger, after Berger's fans insulted Cernovich on Twitter. "Wow. The guy who pals around on Twitter with pedos allegedly has kids. If true I may have to call Child Protection Services,” said Cernovich.

When Anthony Romeo posted a picture of his husband and child, and voiced his support for Hillary Clinton in 2016 on Twitter, he received a flood of hate messages, including “Someone call child protection services. Kid’s gonna get molested eventually.”

On Twitter, jokes and threats about calling child services are pervasive. But actual false calls to ACS are usually less about online feuds and more about exploitation, and they have targeted some of the most vulnerable New Yorkers: poor women of color.

In 2013, City Limits reported advocates for domestic abuse survivors say they have seen incidents where abusers threaten to call child welfare if the victim attempts to leave the relationship.

“Batterers are opportunistic. When they realize just how important the children are to the victim, that threat—that ‘I’ll call ACS and tell them you’re an unfit mother’—holds a lot of weight,” said Liz Roberts, Chief Program Officer for Safe Horizon.

Landlords have also been known to call child services to try and evict tenants. In 2017, the New York Times reported that "the threat of the agency removing children has become a weapon landlords use to force out lower paying tenants. According to dozens of public defenders and housing lawyers, some parents face a stark choice: leave their apartments or lose their kids."

Martin Guggenheim, the founder of New York University Law School’s Family Defense Clinic, has said there are steps the City and State could take to reduce these false reports. The agency could "limit the number of repeated anonymous calls that the hotline is willing to accept," or "refuse to accept repeated unfounded calls without the caller offering identifying information. This, in turn, might dissuade some harassment. It also might make it easier to prosecute some of the most egregious cases," Guggenheim told City Limits.

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