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Trolling to be illegal worldwide (Updated: bill dead!)

Update: The below is mostly nullified as the bill was sent back to the House with amendments, but died anyway. Thank goodness. Of course, all the other non-trolling-related nonsense mentioned below still stands!

Well, if you happen to troll someone in Arizona, anyway.

Arizona House Bill 2549 passed both legislative houses last Thursday and is now awaiting approval from Arizona’s governor Brewer. The statute states that,

“It is unlawful for any person, with intent to terrify, intimidate, threaten, harass, annoy or offend, to use a 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.”

If the electronic devices and means are employed to stalk a victim, the penalty bumps up to a class 3 felony.”


Let’s never mind for a moment that there are existing laws against stalking, bullying and threats, and that there’s really no need to duplicate an existing law just to add “on the internet”, as though the internet was something other than a substratum of society itself. Let’s pretend for a moment that the internet is somehow a different thing. The wording of this law is GROSSLY overbroad, to the point where it makes it illegal to say anything that might offend anyone. As atheists on an internet full of religious folks who think our very existence is offensive, this should rightly give you the heebie-jeebies. Especially since the law states that the offense need only happen on Arizona soil. Could I, for instance, technically be extradited to Arizona to face trial for pissing off a religious nutter by saying Jesus probably never existed?

I mentioned yesterday that someone using slurs that expose bigotry are not censored from doing so, but we’re free to judge them for their choices. We can consciousness-raise, or we can walk away if it’s not a fight we can necessarily have right then, But neither action censors that person from doing this. Judging someone as being an asshole for acting like an asshole does not actually contribute a “chilling effect” to free speech — putting them in jail for being an asshole, on the other hand, does.

Man, what is it with Arizona lately? Stephanie just broke the news that history teachers are going to be forced to whitewash history, to the extent of banning and confiscating ethnic studies textbooks that might show that The White Man and their Manifest Destiny aren’t exactly historically the “good guys”. Never mind all the demonstrably evil things the White Man are doing to their slightly more pigmented bretheren in their very state.

Comments

  1. 'Tis Himself says

    I can see a whole series of lawsuits and countersuits coming about. Someone needs to have the internet and its culture explained to them.

  2. says

    Man, what is it with Arizona lately?

    My hypothesis is that Joe Arpaio is forming a black hole of sadistic fuck-uppery from which no good ideas can escape. Anyone who wanders inside the spherical event horizon surrounding the good Sheriff will be irrevocably sucked into a vortex of combined bigotry and idiocy from which they can never escape.

  3. jufulu says

    Man, what is it with Arizona lately?

    Having spent most of my early years (’58 to ’88) there, I can tell you it’s always been weird. We had people like One-Eyed Jack Williams and Eve Mecham (both had car dealerships IIRC) as governors and our legislature was always at the bottom ranks for effectiveness. I think things really started getting seriously weird in the ’80s when Jon Kyle and Jim Kolbe were elected.

  4. dianne says

    If offending someone on the internet is legal, what site could possibly be legal? Pretty much anything is going to offend someone.

  5. dianne says

    I mean, I know the bill is dead and all, but I can’t figure out what they were thinking in the first place. I’m pretty offended by the web sites of a lot of Arizona legislators so I think I’d have a good case for making them take them down or face jail time if this bill passed.

  6. F says

    Yeah, beat that thing back into the pulp from whence the paper came. I was reading about it the other day, thinking that it was insanely impossible that this thing could work. I can only imagine that it would be enforced selectively to silence and punish certain people only.

  7. Crudely Wrott says

    Diane, it’s not who is offended or by who or even why.

    All that matters is that offense, one of our commonest coins, flows in the wrong direction.

    The assumed righteousness of the true believer, buoyed by faith, the Armor of Dog and the Piss That Passeth Regardless of Understanding, just can’t stand up to such an assault. This is due to the fact that it is not people who are offended (whoo-whoo) but an Invisible Supernatural Spook. You know. The one that empowers all these dogly peeples.

    I know, I can’t figure it out either but I sure as hell recognize it when I see it.

  8. Aliasalpha says

    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

    The funniest thing is that this is exactly how my best friend and I open conversations with each other. If it doesn’t start with a tirade of escalatingly horrific abuse then its just not right!

  9. Richard Simons says

    “It is unlawful for any person, with intent to terrify, [. . .] or offend”

    If it were to pass, it might be difficulty to show intent, although I suspect that ‘Without God you will go to Hell’ would be judged not to be intended to terrify, but ‘You can be good without God’ will be considered clearly offensive.

  10. bcoppola says

    I certainly hope nothing like this gets passed up here in Michigan. After all, trolling is one of the best tactics for walleye fishing…oh, wait, what?

  11. John Horstman says

    @5: My *guess* would be that the intent was to combat internet-based bullying, harassment, and stalking. VERY poor wording, though.

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