Feeds

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

Rough-and-ready westerners or dainty shrinking violets?

Security for virtualized datacentres

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."

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
Google Glassholes are UNDATEABLE – HP exec
You need an emotional connection, says touchy-feely MD... We can do that
Just don't blame Bono! Apple iTunes music sales PLUMMET
Cupertino revenue hit by cheapo downloads, says report
US court SHUTS DOWN 'scammers posing as Microsoft, Facebook support staff'
Netizens allegedly duped into paying for bogus tech advice
Feds seek potential 'second Snowden' gov doc leaker – report
Hang on, Ed wasn't here when we compiled THIS document
Verizon bankrolls tech news site, bans tech's biggest stories
No agenda here. Just don't ever mention Net neutrality or spying, ok?
NATO declares WAR on Google Glass, mounts attack alongside MPAA
Yes, the National Association of Theater Owners is quite upset
Inside the EYE of the TORnado: From Navy spooks to Silk Road
It's hard enough to peel the onion, are you hard enough to eat the core?
prev story

Whitepapers

Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile
Data demand and the rise of virtualization is challenging IT teams to deliver storage performance, scalability and capacity that can keep up, while maximizing efficiency.
Mitigating web security risk with SSL certificates
Web-based systems are essential tools for running business processes and delivering services to customers.