Anonymous Internet Annoying Is Illegal in the U.S.
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.
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