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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Scary stuff HR.1966

Well, this is rather... interesting to say the least:

Whoever transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication, with the intent to coerce, intimidate, harass, or cause substantial emotional distress to a person, using electronic means to support severe, repeated, and hostile behavior, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both....

["Communication"] means the electronic transmission, between or among points specified by the user, of information of the user's choosing, without change in the form or content of the information as sent and received; ...

["Electronic means"] means any equipment dependent on electrical power to access an information service, including email, instant messaging, blogs, websites, telephones, and text messages.

Now I'm all for civility and respect -- but doesn't this criminalize what would otherwise be protected speech?

This is the Megan Meier Cyberbullying Act, and you'll note that it covers blogs, text-messages, IMs, emails, telephones, virtually (if you'll pardon the term) everything more complex than tin cans and string.

This bill comes courtesy of "Ms. LINDA T. SANCHEZ of California (for herself, Ms. KAPTUR, Mr. YARMUTH, Ms. ROYBAL-ALLARD, Mrs. CAPPS, Mr. BISHOP of New York, Mr. BRALEY of Iowa, Mr. GRIJALVA, Mr. HARE, Mr. HIGGINS, Mr. CLAY, Mr. SARBANES, Mr. DAVIS of Illinois, Mr. COURTNEY, and Mr. KIRK)" and is earmarked HR1966.

Now this is pretty scary stuff.


  1. Anonymous6:48 AM

    I would threaten you for posting this but.. well...

  2. I'd say what I think of this measure, but doing so would probably guarantee me two years in solitary.

  3. Perhaps I'm missing something, but this doesn't sound that scary or unreasonable to me.

    It specifies "severe, repeated, and hostile behavior" with "the intent to coerce, intimidate, harass, or cause substantial emotional distress to a person".

    It doesn't apply to a mild threat. It doesn't apply to giving criticism of someone or their ideas.

    It does apply to ganging up on someone and telling them every day for weeks on end that they're worthless and should kill themselves.

    What's scary to me is that there's cause for drafting a law to stop people from making other human beings' lives miserable. One would hope it would be unnecessary.

  4. there goes blogging....

  5. Well, it all rather depends on what 'severe' is considered to be. Unfortunately the bill leaves that term open to interpretation.

  6. TigroSpottystripes Katsu10:08 AM

    how long 'till Prok is put behind bars? Xp

  7. I trust (I hope, at least) that if this piece of nonsense were to get passed by both houses of Congress and signed into law by President Obama, that the courts would immediately toss it as a clear violation of the First Amendment, due to it's ambiguity in trying to control speech.

  8. I don't know about Federal law, but various state laws against harassment (online or not) contain wording that's sort of similar. Minnesota's (which is the one that seems most cited online) defines harassment as "repeated incidents of intrusive or unwanted acts, words, or gestures that have a substantial adverse effect or are intended to have a substantial adverse effect on the safety, security, or privacy of another, regardless of the relationship between the actor and the intended target".

    Is the category of "unwanted words that have a substantial adverse effect on my security" sort of ill-defined? Seems like. :) I believe that definition is still on the books, though.

    Not to say that this is a good idea or anything; just pointing out that we already have some such laws in the offline worls...

  9. Anonymous3:09 PM

    I wonder does it apply to spam? It should.


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