Internet Trolls Face Jail in Arizona

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Internet Trolls Face Jail in Arizona

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The state of Arizona is enacting legislation that will make trolling a crime.

The internet can be a pretty ugly place, especially for those unprepared for its rough-and-tumble ways. The reasons are many and varied, but they can all be boiled down to one essential component of the human condition: people are jerks. If you've been playing online for more than, say, a couple of weeks, I can pretty much guarantee that you've trolled and been trolled. It's the nature of the game.

But the state of Arizona is looking to change all that with House Bill 2549, an update to its telecommunications harassment law intended to bring it into the digital age by replacing the word "telephone" with the phrase "any electronic or digital device." The net result is this:

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

It doesn't sound too terribly unreasonable at first glance - it probably should be illegal to terrify or threaten people with violence, after all - but the trouble lies in its overly vague and wide-reaching language. It'll be illegal to annoy someone on the internet? We've all done that; I do it pretty much every day. I'm probably doing it right now.

Yet under the terms of this amendment that will be a class one misdemeanor, which carries a maximum penalty of a $2500 fine and up to six months in jail. And don't think that simply not living in Arizona will protect you from its legal clutches, as under the terms of the law offenses "are deemed to have been committed at either the place where the communications originated or at the place where the communications were received."

There's a huge gulf between an ongoing campaign of harassment and terror and the occasional f-bomb or "goatse surprise," but this law appears to make no distinction. And while it may be comforting to say that law enforcement can make the distinction for itself, do we rely want to rely on the discretion of the police for such things, especially in Arizona?

via: Gizmodo

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Andy Chalk:

It doesn't sound too terribly unreasonable at first glance

You shitting me? "We arrest people for offending someone over the internet" is not too unreasonable?

Sure glad I'm not living in Arizona.

Pretty soon Arizona will just be Jan Brewer and Joe Arpaio because everyone else will be in prison. I guess it'll be up to those two to repopulate the state.

Try to get that image out of your heads.

I can see it now, arizona will be attempting to get someone from europe extradited so they can face justice in arizona because they called someone a dick online.

Wait, what?
Great...time to move again >>

Worgen:
I can see it now, arizona will be attempting to get someone from europe extradited so they can face justice in arizona because they called someone a dick online.

Well, they are part of the US... Wouldn't be the first time they tried to pull something like that.

Someone should go tell people in Arizona to vote for the lemon party.

Wow. I guess in Arizona its not really the heat, its the stupidity.

Im starting to wonder if the internet should be its own separated entity that is devoid of any one governments leadership, and then force the internet to govern and police itself in matters like this because there are entirely too many "old men with money" trying to tinker with things that they not only do not understand have no interest in seeing as anything other than a lawless series of tubes.

I don't see how they could possibly enforce this. How do you define "annoy or offend" in a legal sense? Besides, unless they get the website it happens on to cooperate, there's no way they can know who's who. Its just another misguided governmental attempt to control the net. A waste of time and tax payers money.

I feel sorry for you Arizon..ians or whatever you're called. While i'm not to big a fan of trolling of being trolled, it's part of the interwebz. You can't take it away :(

So, can they extradite the whole of 4chan? I had better start using a proxy!

Being offended should not give you any ability to take up legal recourse. If I've heard of anything that more of a waste of the court time, I can't remember it. Oh wait, it came one sentence later when they suggested that swearing or being lascivious on the booping internet was a criminal offence.

Clearly the state of Arizona are two days behind, so bravo, very wry.

If they are being serious, that's adorable. I do hope they thoroughly enjoy trying to enforce this.

This will be impossible to enforce. I can just imagine European trolls rushing to Arizona government pages to eff things up, and laugh at the impotence of this ridiculous law. And on that day: I will laugh.

Oooh i hope Anon defaces government websites front pages with offensive and annoying images. Like ED's Offended page? Bring on the tubgirl!

I have only one thing to say about being offended:

kayisking:

Worgen:
I can see it now, arizona will be attempting to get someone from europe extradited so they can face justice in arizona because they called someone a dick online.

Well, they are part of the US... Wouldn't be the first time they tried to pull something like that.

You sir have annoyed me. Over the Internet, no less!
We here in the UK are no part of the US and I am mightily offended.
Please provide me a mailing address so I know where my Arizona-based lawyers can send the details of your trial.

poiumty:
You shitting me? "We arrest people for offending someone over the internet" is not too unreasonable?

Did you just decide to stop reading at that point?

Andy Chalk:

poiumty:
You shitting me? "We arrest people for offending someone over the internet" is not too unreasonable?

Did you just decide to stop reading at that point?

The article boils down to essentially that, however.

viranimus:
Wow. I guess in Arizona its not really the heat, its the stupidity.

Im starting to wonder if the internet should be its own separated entity that is devoid of any one governments leadership, and then force the internet to govern and police itself in matters like this because there are entirely too many "old men with money" trying to tinker with things that they not only do not understand have no interest in seeing as anything other than a lawless series of tubes.

Check that out, arizona is amazingly stupid.
http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/mon-april-2-2012/tucson-s-mexican-american-studies-ban

Worgen:

viranimus:
Wow. I guess in Arizona its not really the heat, its the stupidity.

Im starting to wonder if the internet should be its own separated entity that is devoid of any one governments leadership, and then force the internet to govern and police itself in matters like this because there are entirely too many "old men with money" trying to tinker with things that they not only do not understand have no interest in seeing as anything other than a lawless series of tubes.

Check that out, arizona is amazingly stupid.
http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/mon-april-2-2012/tucson-s-mexican-american-studies-ban

Oh Lord, I saw that earlier. Felt like I'd glued my palm to my face.

Andy Chalk:
Internet Trolls Face Jail in Arizona

If you insult someone out in public, both of you have the opportunity to walk away and end your interaction, and neither of you has any claim to remove the other. You can surely complain to whomever owns the space, but odds are the law isn't going to come into it unless the involved parties start fighting (in which case both are usually in some trouble).

Now, if someone comes to your house to insult you, that's another matter. There, you have the expectation of being free from harassment, or even annoyance, from people you don't want to be there. If you tell them to leave and they don't, problem. If they leave, but come back again, problem. And the law will generally back you up on this (unless they somehow have some legal right to be there, too).

The legal system is pretty good at telling the difference, as evidenced by the fact that we aren't drowning in cases of people going to jail for calling someone an idiot at the DMV. The internet is just a different communication tool. It has its "public" spaces, and it has (to a degree) it's "private" spaces.

The idea that this law is going to be problematic is just our own reflex whenever we hear someone mention "internet" and "law." The problems we're predicting don't happen with analogous media in real life, so there's no reason to assume they're going to happen here. Will someone try it? Surely. And when it fails, we'll have clear legal precedent established, just like for our other laws.

Nothing like The Daily Show for some good ol' fashioned satire.

That said, I'd really like to see them try and enforce the "obscene, lewd or profane language" part. "You're going downtown pal, you cussed on the internet", yup, can't see how that could go wrong and drive Arizona towards being a nanny state.

Edit: In other Arizona news http://www.alternet.org/newsandviews/article/875981/arizona_legislators_trying_to_declare_pregnancy_two_weeks_prior_to_conception/

Good grief.

i assume this law it to deal with those dicks who troll the memorial sites of people who have died and those who cyber bully.. drop the annoy part from it and it might work properly.

Loop Stricken:

Worgen:

viranimus:
Wow. I guess in Arizona its not really the heat, its the stupidity.

Im starting to wonder if the internet should be its own separated entity that is devoid of any one governments leadership, and then force the internet to govern and police itself in matters like this because there are entirely too many "old men with money" trying to tinker with things that they not only do not understand have no interest in seeing as anything other than a lawless series of tubes.

Check that out, arizona is amazingly stupid.
http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/mon-april-2-2012/tucson-s-mexican-american-studies-ban

Oh Lord, I saw that earlier. Felt like I'd glued my palm to my face.

'this video is unavailable in your location'. Curse you the interwebs!

although.. that could be the solution. 'this comment is unavailable in you're location, because your local government has decided you're too whiny to cope with it'

Hey Arizona legislators, you guys are fucking retarded and what you need is a good hard dicking. Make sure your body is ready tonight.

Offended?

Worgen:
I can see it now, arizona will be attempting to get someone from europe extradited so they can face justice in arizona because they called someone a dick online.

"Defendant: But he totally stole my shotgun in Halo, so I had to TK him and call him a dick. It's only fair.
Prosecution: Oh? We were unaware of the fact, and we would like to drop all charges on the bases of this new information. Stealing a shotgun in Halo is totally a dickish move".

Uh folks.. this law was always here, as Andy himself points out, all they changed was the word "phone" to "electronic device".

So tell me.. was there a huge rash of arrests of people swearing on the phone in Arizona before now? When someone from AZ pissed you off over the phone, did they find themselves in front of a judge? No? Well maybe we can ease up on the false butt-hurt here and realize that hey.. maybe the folks who enforce the laws aren't the complete morons Andy seems to be suggesting they are, and maybe this will just be used to go after the real a-holes.

Then again, maybe that idea is what's got you guys and Andy feeling threatened.

Kwil:
Then again, maybe that idea is what's got you guys and Andy feeling threatened.

Yes, I just don't want arseholes from other countries to feel like they might get punished. Nothing at all with complaining about the continued erosion of one's civil liberties and freedoms, heavens no.

Also all comments in this thread are entirely serious and without any hint of melodrama or exaggeration. because the Internet is serious business.

Kwil:
Uh folks.. this law was always here, as Andy himself points out, all they changed was the word "phone" to "electronic device".

So tell me.. was there a huge rash of arrests of people swearing on the phone in Arizona before now? When someone from AZ pissed you off over the phone, did they find themselves in front of a judge? No? Well maybe we can ease up on the false butt-hurt here and realize that hey.. maybe the folks who enforce the laws aren't the complete morons Andy seems to be suggesting they are, and maybe this will just be used to go after the real a-holes.

Then again, maybe that idea is what's got you guys and Andy feeling threatened.

The difference, is that to offend someone over the phone, you have to ring them, and direct you're abuse specifically to them. It has to be a direct personal affront. On the internet people have the opportunity to be offended by stuff that isn't at all addressed to them. The wording of it does not distinguish between a direct, abusive personal message and a snarky facebook status. It does not distinguish between outright cyber bullying, and swearing once on the internet.

Obviously you'd expect common sense to be used in the interpretation but to quote the article

Andy Chalk:

do we rely want to rely on the discretion of the police for such things, especially in Arizona?

So, they're effectively arresting everyone who has ever posted something somebody doesn't like in a youtube comment section, forums, image boards, MMO's? I'm pretty sure they can't incarcerate and fine what I estimate to be EVERYONE WHO HAS EVER FUCKING USED THE INTERNET.

Fuck that legislation, it's absolutely absurd. I know it's only isolated to Arizona, but it's still fucking bullshit to even consider.

It's like saying 'Lets arrest everyone who has ever been mean!'

I'd be super surprised if she signs that which has yet to happen.

As much as I appreciate them updating the law to make it modern, I think they need to be very careful how they go about this if and when it does get signed. I wish they would've worded it differently to make it not so easy for people to mis-use it, which I'm fairly sure will probably happen.

Looks like GameFAQS is gonna have to get some mods that will do their job now.

I personally think its a good thing, I've been threatened with my life quite a few times on the net over being new to something and/or not knowing what to do. This should quell it down.

Didn't a variation of this fail with Tennessee's porn law a few years ago?

The only thing that strikes me about this is that trolling generally happens on internet forums. There are thousands of individual threads for a user to take part in, and if he/she gets trolled in a thread, they can leave and, assuming no one sends them personal messages, they will no longer be trolled. It's such a voluntary thing, to be trolled. It's not the same as harassment via phone; wherein the only way out is to turn off your phone or change your number, one of which will disable communications to an extent and the other could take time and money.
Hmm, I guess what I'm trying to say is that this law probably won't cut it in terms of general internet trolling found on sites like 4chan or GameFAQs. This is probably more geared towards people who get repeated threatening emails or private messages on other sites, like our very own Escapist.

This bill is insanely stupi-*is arrested*

How fast do you think that fundamentalists will abuse this? Safe money is on "immediately", I would imagine. *sigh*

EDIT: My solution to the whole problem is to have a VERY visible "block" button on EVERY social media site and email service, and make it VERY clear and obvious how to block off anyone who you don't wanna talk to. Because I dunno if kids will think about doing that, or know how to do it. If blocking and stuff is made way more obvious, then it'll make cyber bullying much harder to do.

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