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A bill just made it through Congress and was signed into law by President Bush last week. The bill was a budget bill for the Dept. of Justice. No big deal right? Wrong. Hidden deep inside the bill, like a diseased flea, was a small section regarding malice of sort on the Internet. The relevant text is:
"Whoever...utilizes any device or software that can be used to originate telecommunications or other types of communications that are transmitted, in whole or in part, by the Internet... without disclosing his identity and with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass any person...who receives the communications...shall be fined under title 18 or imprisoned not more than two years, or both."
So, my thoughts are this:
first, we must prove who it was... keep in mind the individual must be anonymous. Then we must consider intent to annoy. My wife can verify, I've had the intent to annoy from time to time. But I don't know if she could prove in front of a jury. Also consider, this could cover a lot of ground with anonymous messages on blogs, forums, emails etc.
Then there's the enforceability issue. Lets think this through. Someone has posted a BS anonymous message on someone's blog. I guess I would file my complaint with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) or perhaps the NSA (except they already know who it is so it's moot). So we send a G-Man to my statement and who knows where that will end up Keep in mind Technorati says there's over 24 million blogs out there. Who knows how many forums and other venues people can comment on anonymously. How many federal agents do we have to deal with this problem. I got annoyed a lot so I'll probably need my own team of agents.
Then there's the whole first amendment thing. I would think, in the jargon of the court, this would have a chilling effect on free speech. Possibly peaceable assembly too, depending on who's in your chatroom. Maybe freedom of the press if you run a well written, thoughtful, yet opinionated, anonymous blog. Yep... I don't see how this could stand up to judicial scrutiny. I'm sure this will be challenged. The ACLU was wondering about the meaning of the word "annoy" in the language of the law. Most people have similar ideas of abuse, threaten or harass. I know that. Annoy's pretty broad though. I get annoyed when my Coke costs more than 50 cents. I get annoyed when my toilet stops up. I get annoyed at conservative bloggers. Nothing I can do about it. Free speech, free country (sort of). I hope, for all our sakes, this law doesn't hold.
In parting, who do we have to thank for this, one Mr. Arlen Specter (R-PA). A normally moderate senator, Specter decided to sign off on this fascist legislation. One would think Specter had more sense than that.
Technorati Tags: Internet Annoyance Law, ACLU, Arlen Specter
posted by Stithmeister @ 10:21 PM
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I'm currently working in the telecomm industry but one of my passions is still politics.
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