Anonymous Internet Annoying Is Illegal in the U.S.

How bizarre:

Last Thursday, President Bush signed into law a prohibition on posting annoying Web messages or sending annoying e-mail messages without disclosing your true identity.

[...]

Buried deep in the new law is Sec. 113, an innocuously titled bit called "Preventing Cyberstalking." It rewrites existing telephone harassment law to prohibit anyone from using the Internet "without disclosing his identity and with intent to annoy."

What does this mean for the comment section of this blog? Or any blog? Or Usenet?

More importantly, what does it mean for our society when obviously stupid laws like this get passed, and we have to rely on the police being nice enough to not enforce them?

EDITED TO ADD (1/9) Some commenters to BoingBoing clarify the legal issues. This is from an anonymous attorney:

The anonymous harassment provision ( Link ) is the old telephone-annoyance statute that has been on the books for decades. It was updated in the widely (and in many respects deservedly) ridiculed Communications Decency Act to include new technologies, and the cases make clear its applicability to Internet communications. See, e.g., ACLU v. Reno, 929 F. Supp. 824, 829 n.5 (E.D. Pa. 1996) (text here), aff'd, 521 U.S. 824 (1997). Unlike the indecency provisions of the CDA, this scope update was not invalidated in the courts and remains fully effective.

In other words, the latest amendment, which supposedly adds Internet communications devices to the scope of the law, is meaningless surplusage.

Posted on January 9, 2006 at 2:38 PM • 93 Comments

Comments

ZwackJanuary 9, 2006 2:46 PM

I find all comments that disagree with me annoying... Can we please track all of those commenters down and jail them now.

Z.

Bruce SchneierJanuary 9, 2006 2:59 PM

@ Zwack

You are annoying me. I just phoned the police, and they will track you down and jail you.

(Although the law says "intent to annoy," so it actually doesn't matter if you're annoyed or not -- what matters is what the other person intended. Which means that if you try to annoy me and fail, you still broke the law.)

PhilJanuary 9, 2006 3:00 PM

I think this law will can give a tool for bloggers and moderators to sue aggressive participants.
On the other side, it doesn't help against stupid guys who don't intend to annoy but just don't understand what they say.
Anyway it's hard to sue a pseudo connecting from a public computer.

philippeJanuary 9, 2006 3:01 PM

Zwack, your comment is surely annoying to someone (perhaps the owner of this blog) please throw yourself in jail.

:)

dlgJanuary 9, 2006 3:07 PM

It also works the other way: Even if I am really annoyed by that comment by Zwack, that doesn't mean he goes to jail, since while I might be annoyed, he might not have intended that.

Doesn't make the wording much less idiotic, though.

antimediaJanuary 9, 2006 3:15 PM

Just add a line to your sig:

It was not the intent of this post to annoy anyone, and anyone who was annoyed by this post assumes full responsibility for their annoyment.

:-)

ZwackJanuary 9, 2006 3:17 PM

Greetings Bruce,

While my comment mya have annoyed you, it was not intentional... (I'm sure that those who disagree with me are though so the police need to waste time and money tracking them down and verifying that)...

However, my true identity is disclosed. While I use a pseudonym (that I use frequently) I give you a valid email address and a URL. There is enough information there that I don't feel anyone can claim I am hiding my identity.

Of course that's a matter for the courts to decide. When the police turn up at my door I will co-operate fully in an attempt to get this law stricken from the books as both unconstitutional and a waste of space.

Z.

Ed T.January 9, 2006 3:25 PM

And, next week we will probably find a phishymail that starts as follows:

"This is the FBI. We have monitored your Internet usage, and have determined that you have committed an annoying act. Please turn yourself in at the following web site (provide your eBay and PayPal credentials to login)."

-EdT.
(Prisoner #3133TH@X0RD00D)

MathFoxJanuary 9, 2006 3:26 PM

This law gives a handle to attack some people that post nude pictures of ex-girlfriends ("dial (xxx) yyy-zzzz for good sex"). On the other hand, this law can be abused to harass whistle-blowers and people that dare to criticise government decisions. You don't have to be convicted to be harassed by your government.
--
It was not the intent of this post to annoy anyone, and anyone who was annoyed by this post assumes full responsibility for their annoyment.

David ThornleyJanuary 9, 2006 3:34 PM

I may be slow today, but won't it be a bit difficult to enforce this law? Since it only applies to people who conceal their identities, it will be necessary to provide a legal tie between, say, Mr. Bush and mailings from deskcowboy@aol.com to convict the former. If the hypothetical Mr. Bush does things halfway intelligently, he may well be able to preserve deniability.

Heck, I can argue that I'm not posting this, and it would be difficult to prove that it's me, although my IP address might be considered proof in court. Then again, since this is my real name, I can be as annoying as I like. Legally.

Joe BuckJanuary 9, 2006 3:36 PM

Don't worry, Rick -- I'm sure that the next round of GATT/WTO negotiations will require that all countries enact similar legislation.

Mike SherwoodJanuary 9, 2006 3:37 PM

It means we're getting closer to a society where everyone is a criminal. We've got tons of the laws on the books that are intended for selective enforcement. After all, who gets to determine whether or not the intent was to annoy? The problem with laws that assume they won't be abused is that they ignore reality. The appeal of selective enforcement is that it's possible to jail people for being the wrong color, religion, political party, etc, without having to actually disclose that.

This post has implied criticism of our legislature. A court would determine if this post is intended to annoy. I am not really identifying myself (my birth certificate doesn't say "Mike" and I haven't included my SSN or other easily indexable key) in this post. It's easy to find a way to use bad laws for reasons other than those originally intended.

Alun JonesJanuary 9, 2006 3:38 PM

On the serious front for a moment, how about the various anonymous "whistle-blower" sites, or those that proclaim in various ways (usually starting with their URL) that www.${COMPANY}sucks.com?

Back to the laughs, what if you post something with the intent to annoy me, but I either don't read the posting, or I find it to be thoroughly trivial?

As to the passage of laws that require the citizenry to hope that the police are nice about enforcing them, this is hardly the most recent example. Laws are even proposed with an accompanying disclaimer of "yes, well, I know the law _says_ that, but we wouldn't actually enforce it that way" [until you stop paying attention, that is].

I used to think that lawmaking should be like programming - you're dealing with a fundamentally "stupid" machine, that can follow only relatively simple instructions, and will do exactly what you tell it to do, no matter how stupid. Well, yeah, it is like programming, except the programmers (and the people who hire them) apparently have no concept of what it takes to do the job right.

Imagine if you wrote code the way Congress wrote laws, tacking on completely unrelated amendments - you'd be fired for creating a completely unmaintainable, unreliable and random system. Hmm...

anonymouseJanuary 9, 2006 3:39 PM

NTTA:

It's time to coin a new acronim:

NTTA (Not Trying To Annoy).

So you we open every message with that

philippeJanuary 9, 2006 3:42 PM

Would'nt that law also be used enable U.S. law enforcement to catch "terrorists" not using their real name and who are "annoying" the U.S. by posting web messages or emails to the american public?

John CreeganJanuary 9, 2006 3:44 PM

If the intent of this law was in fact to stop cyberstalking or anonymous annoying behaviour, how is it that lawmakers went to the books with such broad language? What, if any, consultations were done for how enforceable such language might be, or how and why anonymity is used on the net?

Steve L.January 9, 2006 3:55 PM

OMG! People please get everyone you know to get out and vote next election to get everyone involved in the Bush Administration out of office for good. This is just getting more and more ridiculous. Where will it stop????

LygerJanuary 9, 2006 4:01 PM

I noted that this provision is part of the "Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act." I suspect that this has something to do with some well-publicized cases of angry stalkers and ex-boyfriends or husbands using the Internet to anonymously make some woman's life miserable. Even if the law were more tightly written, to prohibit harassment or terrorizing, without criminalizing simple obnoxiousness, aren't there already laws against this sort of thing?

AleksJanuary 9, 2006 4:05 PM

Living in Canada has its advantages. C'mon up and live in Canarchy! No Bush, no RIAA, no NSA, and no laws like this Hoorah.

Anonymous AnnoyanceJanuary 9, 2006 4:08 PM

Looks like the debt collectors will need to find new jobs.

Note: this message was not intended to annoy debt collectors.

Moshe YudkowskyJanuary 9, 2006 4:08 PM

The law was hidden inside another "must-sign" law, a typical lobbyist trick.

I believe this law is likely to be part of someone's SLAPP strategy -- it might even have been intended as such. If someone posts an "annoying" comment about a product or service -- and a complaint of that nature is always annoying, right? -- an aggressive company can now use a criminal statute to uncover the person making the complaint. Given the spate of SLAPP lawsuits, and lawsuits against people who make disparaging remarks about companies because "it drives the stock price down," this new law may be a candidate for an entirely new level of harrassment against bloggers.

Bruce SchneierJanuary 9, 2006 4:09 PM

"and I can annoy all of you with impunity because I am not in the US"

On the other hand, the NSA can legally eavesdrop on all your phone calls.

Pat CahalanJanuary 9, 2006 4:11 PM

> What does this mean for the comment section of this blog?

It means you need to change the "Post a comment" to say:

"Real names are required. If you don't use your real name, you may be judged annoying and can go to jail according to legislation."

Heck, the current notification that real names are *not* required could be "Aiding and Abetting", Bruce :)

AleksJanuary 9, 2006 4:22 PM

@Bruce

"On the other hand, the NSA can legally eavesdrop on all your phone calls."

Of course that's always been a problem. This new law doesn't really change anything w.r.t foreign intelligence.

The question is, would your blog get you banned from entering the US? I doubt the US border services really has the capacity to track crossborder shoppers' online consumer ranting.

Did I mention Google Bundle sucks? HA!

DylanJanuary 9, 2006 4:26 PM

oops, wrong thread.

Oh well, my point was that pretexting isn't presently illegal except in regard to financial companies. Please read in context of the pretexting thread.

pigletJanuary 9, 2006 4:49 PM

A weird law for sure... won't stand a chance in the courts, unenforcable and simply too vague, but weirdest I think is the explicit criminalization of anonymous posting. Maybe an idea of Kevin Kelly's? Who would have thought that while we were discussing anonymity on the other blog entry...

In German law, publications (including web sites within certain limits) must state the name and adress of at least one person responsible (aka Impressum or imprint) . This applies even to flyers distributed in a public place. Failure to comply is a misdemeanor. However, a publication may be deemed illegal whether it is anonymous or not ;-)

gregJanuary 9, 2006 5:02 PM

What is hiding your identity? I may or may not be Greg in real life. But I only use 2 coumputers and one of them has a static IP. It would take all of one hour of a half competent investigator to work out my true identity and even my phone number. Pretty much from anywhere in the world.

I'm not tring to hide.... But i still use pseudonyms for normal internet use. Its the culture.

Does this mean i can be rude?

AnonymousJanuary 9, 2006 5:10 PM

"In German law, publications (including web sites within certain limits) must state the name and adress of at least one person responsible (aka Impressum or imprint) . This applies even to flyers distributed in a public place."

I just read that similar laws existed in the US but were invalidated:
http://straylight.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/93-986.ZO.html
It is interesting, however, that the decision was divided. Scalia dissented, and Ginsburg states: "The Court's decision finds unnecessary, overintrusive, and inconsistent with American ideals the State's imposition of a fine on an individual leafleteer who, within her local community, spoke her mind, but sometimes not her name. We do not thereby hold that the State may not in other, larger circumstances, require the speaker to disclose its interest by disclosing its identity." Thomas concurs but attacks the reasons given by the majority. In his view, anonymity deserves protection not because it is a logical consequence of freedom of speech, but only because the sacred founders themselves published anonymously. In this logic, he will hardly uphold the freedom of the internet, given the fact that the constitution nowhere mentions it and Jefferson is not known to have ever published a blog.

jammitJanuary 9, 2006 5:36 PM

But annoying people was my only reason for living.
Does this mean I can't respond to spammers with an email addy spoofed to look like president@whitehouse.gov?

AnonymousJanuary 9, 2006 5:39 PM

On the advice of my counsel, I respectfully decline to answer the question based on my constitutional rights.

Jaime SantosJanuary 9, 2006 5:40 PM

This may look old-fashioned, but whoever wants
to exercise free-speech should also have the courage to stand by his/her comments, in other words, sign them (we do not live in a dictatorship). Okay, I will open an exception for whistleblowers, but the Internet is not the most appropriate place for whistleblowing, people will probably not believe you. On the other hand, obliging someone to sign a comment would definitely spare us from the odd insult...

B-ConJanuary 9, 2006 5:48 PM

Free iPods!
Better APR!
No-down house payments!
Bigger boobs!
Earn $15,000,000 just watching TV!

Whoops -- can't be prosecuted. I've signed my real name.

-- Oenq Pbagr ;-)


-------------

But seriously, as Zwack pointed out, what about pseudo names that aren't real, but directed connected to a name that is? My website features my real name, and I give it out somewhat freely online -- but I still go by "B-Con". Even though my pseudo name is tracable to my real name by anyone worth half their salt, does it good enough? Or do I need to start signing all my messages in ROT-13?

-------------

Quote: "Living in Canada has its advantages. C'mon up and live in Canarchy! No Bush, no RIAA, no NSA, and no laws like this Hoorah."

I'd rethink that "no NSA" part. Monitoring foreign intellegence is their job. Unless, of course, Canada has no intellegence to monitor ;-)

AleksJanuary 9, 2006 5:57 PM

@BCon

Well by the "no NSA" part, I of course mean that the designers of say, the CAST block cipher family didn't have to loose sleep about going to jail over how they published their work. :P

David T.S. FraserJanuary 9, 2006 6:16 PM

I'm not an American lawyer, but I think the important part of the amended law is that it targets communications that are sent with an intent to "annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass" the recipient. This should not cover a publication like a blog or a usenet posting but is directed at harassing e-mails: One-to-one or one-to-few communications. I've put an amended version of the Communication Act sections on my blog since the bill is rather confusing. See: http://www.privacylawyer.ca/blog/2006/01/anonymous-net-annoyers-headed-to-jail.html.

Jon SowdenJanuary 9, 2006 6:21 PM

"Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act."

Huh. Isn't that an oxy-moron or sumfink right there? I mean, shouldn't it be "Violence Against People and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act"?

Better yet, two acts: "Violence Against People Act" and "Department of Justice Reauthorization Act"? And I would hope that the "Violence Against People Act" was somewhat redundant 200+ years into the Republic.

BTW, given that it was passed as named, does that mean you are a criminal if your intent was to annoy a woman? What about a man posing as a woman?

*sigh* such an abundance of stoopid, stoopid laws. When the revolution comes, stoopid laws will be illegal.

Note: using real name, all annoying content above was intentional.

Jon SowdenJanuary 9, 2006 6:29 PM

Heh. Note to self: Don't use pointy brackets on this comments page.

Ok, lets try that again:
*gah* an annoying typo.

Insert {only} between {does that mean you are a criminal} and {if your intent was to annoy a woman?}

Apologies for the multiple posts.

Jim B.January 9, 2006 7:02 PM

Does this mean that services like hushmail will be forced to close?

Or worse, that they will be required to put in a backdoor to identify the author?

What about onion routing?

Or anonymous blogs?

CandideJanuary 9, 2006 7:19 PM

@Jon Sowden

One of the things I like about Minnesota is that we require a single-subject bill -- laws can and occassionally do get overturned because they were beyond the scope of the bill they snuck into. The new concealed-carry law was overturned in 2004 because of that.

Dick Cheney's evil twinJanuary 9, 2006 7:27 PM

I sent an http request to www.whitehouse.gov and was sent an entire web page of annoyances without divulging the sender's identity.

Off with their heads! Wait, scratch that. Grease up the torture rack!

Brad MillsJanuary 9, 2006 7:27 PM

Just off the top, I'm thinking controversial stuff will begin being dissented via, say, bit torrent or other methods. Perhaps posted on one of those off-soil domains that the US can't go after, '.ru' comes to mind. Personally, I like being able to see something useful, then going to "why XYZ sucks" and find meaningful dissent.

I really doubt there's going to be any police force large enough to go after 10 bazillion users, and every little petty complaint/dissent that's posted.

In a scientific community, does not one develop something, post the results, and the community is better when several guys try to disprove it? Does this not contain dissent? What happened to free speech? I'm not into rampant slandering - and don't care for those who produce it. Useful feedback, pro or con is pretty much a neccessity for advancement of civilization, methinks. So now it's going to get to an opinion or 'did you have evil intent when you wrote that?' sort of bit.

I don't see how morality can be legislated. My .02 from Miami ;)

FoxyshadisJanuary 9, 2006 7:33 PM

@Jon Sowden
No, you have it wrong, it's about violence against women and violence against the justice department. =D

Ah, my old english teacher would love to get ahold of whomever wrote that.

RogerJanuary 9, 2006 7:34 PM

@Bruce:
> More importantly, what does it mean for our society when obviously stupid laws like this get passed, and we have to rely on the police being nice enough to not enforce them?

Well, it's a bad thing certainly, but it isn't at all new and doesn't have anything to do with particular parties or governments. In the words of Mr. Bumble c. 1837 "If the law supposes that, then the law is a ass, a idiot!"

I don't know what the equivalent is in the US, but in Australia we have the Commonwealth Government bookshop, which each publishes, among other things, a complete bound set of all legislation passed in the last twelvemonth. It's now well over a yard long, and these are _big_ volumes. The annual quantity of legislation being passed by most legislatures nowdays is so great that it is close to physically impossible to speed-read it all in a year, must less study it in sufficient detail to determine it usefulness, its justness, its hidden defects.

Much of the resulting product is at best unneccessary, at middle expensive and useless, and at worst seriously harmful. But no-one knows how to stop them.

> and we have to rely on the police being nice enough to not enforce them?

We also have judges who can "interpret" them generously using any of several well established rules (the literal rule, the ejusdem generis rule, the golden rule, the mischief rule, the purposive rule). For example, the American Heritage Dictionary says that annoy means:
1. To cause slight irritation to (another) by troublesome, often repeated acts.
2. To harass or disturb by repeated attacks.
A judge might employ the Golden Rule and conclude that since it is absurd for Congress to criminalise "slight irritation", the intended meaning is "to harass or disturb by repeated attacks".

RogerJanuary 9, 2006 7:39 PM

@Jim B.:
> Does this mean that services like hushmail will be forced to close?

Hushmail operates out of a Carribbean island called Anguilla, the economy off which depends heavily on "off-shore banking". They value the privacy of their customers.

Past history had showed that the USA was a totally unsuitable location to provide an email encryption service.

xJanuary 9, 2006 7:42 PM

God, I hate that Bush Bastard so incredibly much. This kind of crap simply has to stop.

It makes sense for the law to apply to telephone calls, since they are generally one-to-one communications. But to say that a person may not post content via the internet with the "intent to annoy" is light years beyond ludicrous.

Any law with the word "intent" in it is bullshit. How does law enforcement read minds? Curious question, that. It is my "intent" to annoy people with THIS message, or am I just pissed off after five years of King George?

JoeHezJanuary 9, 2006 8:33 PM

@x

"God, I hate that Bush Bastard so incredibly much. This kind of crap simply has to stop."

While I agree wholeheartedly with the second sentence (though I, as well as many other republics, have no idea how to actually make it stop).

But the first sentence? Wasn't the sec 113 part inserted via the sausage-making process in Congress?

NTTA, of course.

SmokeJanuary 9, 2006 8:50 PM

On reading this... the whole 'annoying' part aside, it is aimed at people who do not identify themselves.

If you use an alias on a post, but that alias identifies you and/or you claim the post when you are asked about it, are you still liable? I use this alias all the time, and among those who know me, it identifies me. Does this mean I am not liable?

Second question: This is a US law about the internet... how does this affect things for people who live outside the USA?

jefmJanuary 9, 2006 8:57 PM

Can you imagine going to jail for this. Every preteen message board poster probably shuddered collectively and simultaneously as this was passed.

MirrorsJanuary 9, 2006 9:01 PM

one more time,
Gadd, it only took five steps instead of your usual twelve. Go Team. The response is overwhelming.

Seth BreidbartJanuary 9, 2006 11:38 PM

It has been suggested that this law might actually be usable against spammers, unlike They-CAN-SPAM.

Davi OttenheimerJanuary 10, 2006 12:43 AM

Odd. This all must trace back to someone's hatred of clowns. They sure fit the bill for anonymous and annoying communication...

The only thing worse would be if the law specified that carriers were responsible for figuring out what constitutes an "annoying" transmission.

AnonymousJanuary 10, 2006 2:26 AM

"On the other hand, the NSA can legally eavesdrop on all your phone calls."

Not legally. In Europe we do have some laws to protect the privacy of telecommunication. And when the NSA acts in europe, they have (normally) to abide them. (But they don't care, but that's not legal.)

AlexMJanuary 10, 2006 2:27 AM

That anonymous post was me. Sorry to annoy you with anonymous posts, but really, really, that was not my intent.

John CreeganJanuary 10, 2006 7:36 AM

"Power positions don't yield to arguments, no matter how logical or passionate, but only to other power."

If you want to stop this sort of thing, a groundswell of public support for stopping it is required. The larger and more focused the public support the faster it'll stop.

This nonsense is but one of many things about the current administration I find disturbing. Though I doubt it'll have much effect on my in my lifetime, I worry about erosion...this step taken today, another tomorrow, next week or next year, until finally, one day, all the small steps take us places no one wanted to be, not even those who took the initial first small steps.

Jim HyslopJanuary 10, 2006 8:26 AM

@Brad Mills: "annoying" and "dissenting" are distinct, mostly unrelated concepts. I don't think any reasonable discourse (or even some unreasonable discourses) about a scientific postulation, computer algorithm, etc., can be considered in any way annoying by a reasonable person (another measuring rod used by courts, from what I understand - but then again, I don't know what the generally accepted definition of a "reasonable person" is :-).

EpimortumJanuary 10, 2006 9:57 AM

@jefm
>Can you imagine going to jail for this. >Every preteen message board poster >probably shuddered collectively and >simultaneously as this was passed.

I think you give the pre-teen message board goers way too much credit. I seriously doubt that any of them even know what the term legislation means. No, they won't know about it until it affects them directly.

BTW
@Jon Sowden
Be careful using the R word "revolution" it might be considered annoying to those in power and then it could be "... off with your head." sort of thing. Despite the fact that this country was "founded" on Revolution

--
NTTA
Cheers

Bill McGonigleJanuary 10, 2006 10:07 AM

I get at least 50 blog spams a day from companies with web URL's who want money. This wastes probably 10-15 minutes of time for me a day - more than I spend writing the blog. Some of these come from within the US. But they probably come from Zombied Windows machines, so what can you do?

Yeah, I need a new blog platform that supports captcha. But there are ways to defeat captcha too. There ought to be a law... oh, wait!

I'm particularly sensitive to this issue because I get two junk fax calls from Canada every night in the middle of the night. Each one wakes up the baby. I'm on call 24x7 so there's not much I can do.

Kevin DavidsonJanuary 10, 2006 10:10 AM

I would not the difference between "annoy" and "intent to annoy".

All this spam I get is annoying, but that is not its intent.

What's frustrating about legislation like this is if someone really does try to annoy me, cause me distress, and really ruin my day, the feds won't prosecute. They may prosecute someone someday, but it won't be for my benefit.

ZaphodJanuary 10, 2006 10:41 AM

"It has been suggested that this law might actually be usable against spammers, unlike They-CAN-SPAM."

That was the first thought that struck me as well. Does anyone have more info on this as a possible spam fighting piece of legislation?

Z.

Pat CahalanJanuary 10, 2006 1:01 PM

How hilarious is it that in the 100 most recent comments there's a dozen or so spam posts, but none of them wound up on this particular thread?

Seth FinkelsteinJanuary 10, 2006 4:09 PM

http://volokh.com/posts/1136873535.shtml

[Orin Kerr, January 10, 2006 at 1:12am]
A Skeptical Look at "Create an E-annoyance, Go to Jail":

"Declan McCullagh has penned a column that is custom-designed to race around the blogosphere. ...

This is just the perfect blogosphere story, isn't it? It combines threats to bloggers with government incompetence and Big Brother, all wrapped up and tied togther with a little bow. Unsurprisingly, a lot of bloggers are taking the bait.

Skeptical readers will be shocked, shocked to know that the truth is quite different. ..."

AlexMJanuary 11, 2006 1:38 AM

I wonder how this piece of legislation is applied to online games. Normally you use there pseudonyms and some of your opponents may very well be played by humans, too. So what when they attack you?

AlexMJanuary 11, 2006 1:40 AM

I wonder how this piece of legislation is applied to online games. Normally you use pseudonyms there and your opponents may very well be played by humans, too. So what if they attack you?

SpacetankerJanuary 11, 2006 7:50 AM

I see. So we need to get rid of Bush because our representatives cooked up a stupid law for him to sign? Talk about annoying! Next, we'll be blaming Bush for the weather. Let's throw the lot of them out...all the elected officials.

RavenJanuary 11, 2006 6:37 PM

What if this bill is intended to stifle dissent?

What does that say about the mindset of those who composed the legislation?

I only pose these questions to annoy you all.

Andrew McPhersonJanuary 14, 2006 4:39 AM

Posted by: Brad Mills at January 9, 2006 07:27 PM: Just off the top, I'm thinking controversial stuff will begin being dissented via, say, bit torrent or other methods. Perhaps posted on one of those off-soil domains that the US can't go after, '.ru' comes to mind. Personally, I like being able to see something useful, then going to "why XYZ sucks" and find meaningful dissent.

I really doubt there's going to be any police force large enough to go after 10 bazillion users, and every little petty complaint/dissent that's posted.

brad's idea posted = an idea I had 4 years ago, it's in development as a distributed bittorent network that has search like limewire had before the drm ruined it.
It's designed to be useful in those countries which have thousands of police online looking for dissent.

AlexMJanuary 14, 2006 9:29 AM

It doesn't mather, that the police force can't go after a billion users. This is a kind of fall-back law. When they're after you (because you really annoyed somebody with a good lawyer or something else) and can't prove any specific charges, then they just use this law instead.

ALLANJanuary 15, 2006 11:30 AM

Bruce,

I was interested in the very appropriate comments in your January letter on the evolution of Presidential (Executive) power. I offer for your information that as a Canadian, I am similarly concerned about the same phenomenon here. While we are not a large, globally dominant nation, Canadian citizens are still subject to the same threat to our liberty and equality under law. Our Prime Minister in fact has greater untrammelled power than your President and is subject to virtually no checks and balances with regard to all his decisions including appointments to our federal courts and our Head of State (Governor General). He has recently made it a policy of his government, if re-elected, to withdraw the “notwithstanding clause��? from section 33 of our constitution. See: http://tinyurl.com/av5u7.

The power vested in the PMO (Prime Minister’s Office) is a major concern which must be addressed soon, and I hope by a new conservative government on January 23rd. Unhappily, few Canadians seem disturbed by this issue.

cum fiestaJanuary 15, 2006 7:35 PM

No matter what I think comment spam is going to be here forever.

You just need to take steps to stop it. Most of the time this is as simple as activating a plugin.

freakboyJanuary 19, 2006 9:37 PM

what does it matter if someone is annonymos or not? I mean it's the opinoin that matters right? if someone chooses not to post who they are, that thier choice. just as it is the choice of the reader to read or not read the post. it is my firm opinion ppl need to get over the idea that they can not always force the hand of others.
this is a "when i am in a circle of equals, no one is more important then me" attitude.

KarlJanuary 26, 2006 10:37 PM

IF I harass you and use my real name, isn't that still harassment and you still can get in trouble? So this law doesn't do squat. The real hardcores will use a alias anyway forcing a subpoena and the FBI will show up and find a insecure wireless connection. Also if an alias harasses another alias, do you get to face your accuser or is there a silhouette because you really rattled the poor soul? Maybe they should have hired Miss Manners on proper net etiquette or teach them what 127.0.0.1 does.

capjJanuary 29, 2006 3:05 AM

>What does it mean for our society when obviously stupid laws like this get passed, and we have to rely on the police being nice enough to not enforce them?

My suggestion is to fine the politicians the cost of defence when a law is struck down. The current crop in Congress should have to pay. Thus, politicians should have to pay for malpractice insurance, just like any other group that purportedly serves the public.
Who will bell the cat?
Of course, something like this will never get passed without an overwhelming public outcry, so that the politicians would never dare not to implement it.
This idea is included in my list of ideas for US constitutional reform on my website at http://www.geocities.com/forpropertyrights in the Essays section.

capjJanuary 29, 2006 3:08 AM

If this were implemented, politicians would have to spend a lot of time going over bad old laws and getting them off the books, thus slowing down the growth of government. It might mean that only laws whose justice is obvious to all, would be permitted to remain on the books by the politicians.

capjJanuary 29, 2006 3:11 AM

It doesn't seem quite fair that politicians can pass all sorts of awful laws for free and then cost people millions of dollars to have them defeated.

SequoyaFebruary 16, 2006 6:28 PM

A lot of people annoy me. They annoy me even more when they get on the internet, use false names and have a good time.

I want to annoy them in return. Can I call the police and have them arrested?

I presume I can't be in trouble myself as a) I am not doing this through the internet but in person at the police station and b) I will be using my real name when I press charges.

Please let me know if this is possible.

reallyannoyedApril 4, 2006 10:28 AM

this new law annoys me. It would seem clear that the intent of the lawmakers involved was to annoy me. Would all those who voted for it and who signed it into law immediately turn themselves in.

AnonymousMay 17, 2006 11:25 PM

Hi and just a few thoughts from Sri Lanka (where there a large number of laws most of which are observed in the breach)

As this law stands, it is "the intent to annoy" that matters, not whether the person actually annoys you or whether you get annoyed or not.

As such, mail from debt collectors etc. does not qualify, for 2 reasons:
1. I think any court of law will hold that the debt collectors intent is to recollect money owed, not annoyance
2. Debt collectors rarely ever are anonymous.

I personally think that this law is a good starting point (specially for those who may be prosecuted) though it is far from perfect. As the lawmakers learn, and through experience, we will have more amendments which will hopefully be better.

As to comparing lawmaking with codewriting, the analogy simply does not hold.... lawmaking is a far more serious/complex and humans are capricious which makes it far more difficult. It isn't helped by the fact that laws are not necessarily written by the more intelligent.

silivrenNovember 24, 2007 10:22 PM

here's a view from malaysia...ever heard of it?

you think your congress is absurd and full of poppycock for coming up with and implementing this bill?

well, come down here and have a look at what they discuss in parliament...you'll either die laughing or suffer an aneurysm from the sheer stupidity of it all...

here's a taster; a government building had to be closed down because it started leaking. a senator brought up the issue of poorly constructed govt. buildings and th massive amounts of mone it takes to repair them. an assemblyman then commented that she should not complain since she leaks once a month herself. the entire week of parliamentary meetings were spent getting this neanderthal to apologise and the senator to accept his apology.

AnonymousFebruary 12, 2008 12:26 AM

LOL!!!! And how do they suppose they enforce this law.

Good one Bush, good one, you've proven again just how stupid you are.

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