ONTD Political

Arizona wants to send internet trolls to jail

11:50 am - 04/04/2012
Arizona bill could criminalize Internet trolling
By Chris Morris

Arizona marches to the beat of its own drummer. But if that drummer gets upset and starts hollering on the Internet, he might get tossed in the clink.

After spending years targeting illegal aliens, the Grand Canyon State is turning its sights on obnoxious Internet users (commonly called 'trolls'). A new update to the state's telecommunications harassment bill could make the practice of harassing people online illegal.
Arizona House Bill 2549 has already passed both of the state's legislative bodies and is currently sitting on the desk of Governor Jan Brewer. While there's a lot in there that doesn't concern trolling, here's the line that has people worried:

It is unlawful for any person, with intent to terrify, intimidate, threaten, harass, annoy or offend, to use ANY ELECTRONIC OR DIGITAL DEVICE and use any obscene, lewd or profane language or suggest any lewd or lascivious act, or threaten to inflict physical harm to the person or property of any person.

Violators could be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor and face up to 6 months in jail. If electronic devices are used to stalk someone, the charges then become a Class 3 felony, with penalties ranging from a minimum sentence of two and a half years in jail for non-dangerous offenders with no prior record to 25 years.

At the heart of the bill is an anti-bullying agenda. Cyber-bullying has been on the rise in recent years and has been in the news lately. A 2010 report in The New York Times found that one of out five middle-school students said they had been victims of cyberbullying.
Despite its good intentions, the Arizona law is already being called "overly broad" by critics. By using vague terms like "annoy" and "offend," it could easily encompass Internet forums or even comments like the ones found at the end of this story.
Free speech groups say they don't believe the law would ever stand up to court scrutiny if Gov. Brewer does, in fact, sign it. And many have pointed out the flaws in the bill to the governor herself.

"Government may criminalize speech that rises to the level of harassment and many states have laws that do so, but this legislation takes a law meant to address irritating phone calls and applies it to communication on web sites, blogs, listserves and other Internet communication," Media Coalition wrote in a letter last week.

mirhanda 4th-Apr-2012 05:43 pm (UTC)
That doesn't sound like "trolls" to me, that sounds like straight up bullying. In my mind, trolling is like what sjaustin does: Take a ridiculous position in an argument and defend it to the death while driving other people crazy. But this article is talking about "terrify, intimidate, threaten, harass, annoy or offend". Now I'd like to see the language cleaned up to take out the annoy/offend part, but anyone trying to terrify, intimidate, threaten, or harass someone on the internet is more than just a troll, yes?
spyral_path 4th-Apr-2012 05:52 pm (UTC)
I agree. Take out the annoy and offend part and the bill doesn't seem like a bad idea. Anykne using the internet to terrorize someone shoukd face consequences. The article reads as if the writer doesn't jnderstand what a troll is, or is deliberately choosing the word troll in order to stir up controversy, which I just realized is a form of trolling. Oh the irony.
mirhanda 4th-Apr-2012 06:02 pm (UTC)
OMG, hahaha! He's trolling us about trolling!
dncingmalkavian 4th-Apr-2012 08:13 pm (UTC)
idemandjustice 4th-Apr-2012 09:16 pm (UTC)
I agree with you, totally. Without the annoy/offend part, it seems fine to me.
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