Feeds

Arizona bill makes it illegal to 'annoy or offend' online

Rough-and-ready westerners or dainty shrinking violets?

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

Updated The Arizona legislature has passed a bill that makes it illegal to annoy anyone over the internet.

You think we're joking? The Reg – solid and stolid defender of all that is right and true – does not joke about matters of such import. Check it out:

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.

"Threaten to inflict physical harm"? Sure. "Terrify"? Well, rather subjective, but we'll let it pass. But "annoy or offend"? To quote that paragon of personal freedom and unbridled expression, Captain James Hook, "No, bicarbonate of soda, no!"

Some may argue that Arizona House Bill 2549, if signed by that state's governor Jan Brewer – she of the Obama finger-pointing and campaign-debate brain freeze – will transform online forums throughout The Grand Canyon State into havens of civility and enlightened discourse. We, however, disagree. If the bill is signed and somehow enforced, online gathering places will more likely become depopulated.

House Bill 2549 is a reworking of an earlier bill that was created during the telephone age, and replaces the original bill's wording of "to use a telephone" with the new text, "to use any electronic or digital device". The earlier bill was passed when communication was a one-to-one affair, and such protections – if somewhat o'er-reaching – were defendable.

The new bill, however, arrives at a time when communication is both anonymous and one-to-many. Here at The Reg, for example, our beloved commentards have been known to annoy one another – or even we thick-skinned Reg writers – with what might occasionally be deemed an intemperate remark or two. Or three. Or four.

But if Governor Brewer should choose to sign House Bill 2549, would our forums' feisty fulminators face the wrath of "America's Sherrif", Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona, because of a digital dust-up in which one commentard commented that another commentor was a fathead?

Let's hope not. America's courthouses are jammed as it is. ®

Update

In response to complaints from, well, sane folks, Arizona's "annoy or offend" bill will be revised. The primary sponsor of the bill, Arizona state Representative Ted Vogt, told The Huffington Post that legislators plan to amend it before sending it to Governor Jan Brewer for her consideration.

Co-sponsor Representative Steve Farley, however, defended the impetus behind the bill, telling HuffPo: "I know people are focusing on unintended consequences of the bill, but I don't think that's realistic. I think this is a wakeup call that we should be civil online and in society in general."

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
Doctor Who's Flatline: Cool monsters, yes, but utterly limp subplots
We know what the Doctor does, stop going on about it already
'Cowardly, venomous trolls' threatened with TWO-YEAR sentences for menacing posts
UK government: 'Taking a stand against a baying cyber-mob'
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
Arab States make play for greater government control of the internet
Nerds told to get lost in last-minute power grab bid at UN meeting
Zippy one-liners, broken promises: Doctor Who on the Orient Express
Series finally hits stride, but Clara's U-turn is baffling
Don't bother telling people if you lose their data, say Euro bods
You read that right – with the proviso that it's encrypted
Apple SILENCES Bose, YANKS headphones from stores
The, er, Beats go on after noise-cancelling spat
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.