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Dec 07 2012

So you’re not allowed to do that?

Is cyberstalking a thing? Yes, cyberstalking is a thing. Even in Polk County, Florida, it’s a thing.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd does not take internet bullying of its residents lightly, even if it involves EllenBeth Wachs, the former Vice-President and Legal Affairs Coordinator for Atheists of Florida and current President of Humanists of Florida Association, who recently asked the sheriff to investigate a relentless case of cyberstalking aimed against her.

Judd assigned a Special Investigations detective to investigate a North Carolina man who has, for almost two years, employed an arsenal of social media such as Facebook, Youtube, Google+ and Twitter, to conduct a relentless campaign to harass and abuse Wachs.

But you’re allowed to do that, aren’t you? It’s free speech, isn’t it?

No, and no.

According to Florida statutes the term “cyberstalk” means “to engage in a course of conduct to communicate, or to cause to be communicated, words, images, or language by or through the use of electronic mail or electronic communication, directed at a specific person, causing substantial emotional distress to that person and serving no legitimate purpose.”

Such activity is a first degree misdemeanor or, if a credible threat is conveyed, a third degree felony. Earlier this month, sheriff detectives arrested two Polk County men under the Florida cyberstalking statute for harassing a 15-year-old high school student via Twitter.

But but but harassing people is a glorious part of our glorious tradition of free speech!

North Carolina laws make it a Class 2 misdemeanor “for a person to electronically mail or electronically communicate to another repeatedly for the purpose of abusing, annoying, threatening, terrifying, harassing, or embarrassing any person.”   According to a University of North Carolina School of Government website, over 1200 people were charged with cyberstalking in 2010 under North Carolina law.

Martyrs of free speech!

No, actually. Just thugs.

12 comments

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  1. 1
    Ken

    To the extent the statutes prohibit repeated unwelcome contact, they are probably constitutional, unless they are too vague.

    To the extent they prohibit writing about someone causing emotional harm, as oppose to writing to someone, they are probably not constitutional.

  2. 2
    Sastra

    “Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd does not take internet bullying of its residents lightly, even if it involves EllenBeth Wachs, the former Vice-President and Legal Affairs Coordinator for Atheists of Florida and current President of Humanists of Florida Association…” (my bold)

    What, not even then? Whoa, he is taking it seriously.

    Okay, I’m not sure who put in the words “even if,” but if it was a reporter then the reporter should probably be made aware that the insidious use of language to marginalize a group is a danger to be avoided.

  3. 3
    throwaway, never proofreads, every post a gamble

    I saw it as a snarkily observant ‘even if’ rather than an attempt to marginalize. A recognition that atheists and other minority religions do not usually get fair-play in the courts or in the media in Ameristan.

  4. 4
    throwaway, never proofreads, every post a gamble

    Although now that I’ve fully parsed it, I presume it has more to do with Wachs history with the Sheriff. Mea culpa. From the last paragraph:

    In March 2011, Wachs was arrested and her home searched by a SWAT team of sheriff’s deputies several weeks after she had requested from Sheriff Judd, citing the Freedom of Information Act, records concerning his transfer of jail sports property to local area churches. Wachs, a retired attorney, had signed her name with “ESQ” prompting her arrest for allegedly practicing law without a license, a charge that prosecutors would later drop. </blockquote

  5. 5
    psocoptera

    Polk county was the one where people used consecrated oil on the roads to keep out unbelievers or criminals or something. The Polk Under Prayer people do seem to have trouble telling the difference. Glad Judd does something with his job other than endorse prayer and force prisoners to buy their own underwear. Never moving to Florida. ever.

  6. 6
    Stephanie Zvan

    Wait. What? I don’t understand. How can EllenBeth be cyberstalked? She’s a public figure!!!! Perhaps this cyberstalker needs to have Justin Vacula send a letter to the sheriff explaining what’s what. [/snark]

    It’s good to see someone is taking this seriously.

  7. 7
    Ophelia Benson

    Yeh, it’s what throwaway said, Sastra. John Kieffer wrote the press release and he knows all about Sheriff Judd.

  8. 8
    CaptainJaneway

    ^^This

  9. 9
    Sastra

    Ah, I see that now.

  10. 10
    jaxkayaker

    The city of Lakeland is in Polk County, that’s right there in the quote from the article you posted. I don’t believe we have a Lakeland County in Florida.

  11. 11
    Ophelia Benson

    D’oh. Thanks. Corrected.

  12. 12
    Wil Kuhlmann

    Well Sugar tits nothing happend , I can do what ever I want when I want. :)

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