(too wimpy and wussy to be free)
NY State Senators Say We’ve Got Too Much Free Speech; Introduce Bill To Fix That
By Mike Masnick Mon, Oct 3rd 2011 9:30am
(from the i-find-this-offensive dept)
We’ve been pointing out a variety of attempts to push back on the First Amendment lately. One fertile ground for such attacks are local politicians carrying the “cyberbullying” banner, in various attempts to magically outlaw being a “jerk” online, usually by making it illegal to offend someone online. Of course, making someone’s action illegal based on how someone else feels about it is all kinds of crazy. It also would seem to violate the very principles of the First Amendment, which bar Congress (and local governments) from passing any laws that take away one’s right to free speech.
In the past, lawmakers pushing these laws have tended to simply ignore the First Amendment issue, and focus on screaming “protect the children!” as loudly as possible (never mind the fact that kids seem much less concerned about “bullying” than all these adults seem to think). However, it appears that some state Senators in NY are trying a new line of attack: going directly after the First Amendment and suggesting that current interpretations are way too broad, and it’s not really meant to protect any sort of free speech right. In fact, it sounds as though they’re trying to redefine the right to free speech into a privilege that can be taken away. Seriously:
Proponents of a more refined First Amendment argue that this freedom should be treated not as a right but as a privilege — a special entitlement granted by the state on a conditional basis that can be revoked if it is ever abused or maltreated.
Yes, that totally flips the First Amendment on its head. It is not a “more refined First Amendment.” It’s the anti-First Amendment. It suggests, by its very nature, that the government possesses the right to grant the “privilege” of free speech to citizens… and thus the right to revoke it. That’s an astonishingly dangerous path, and one that should not be taken seriously. Of course, given their right to speak freely, state senators Jeff Klein, Diane Savino, David Carlucci and David Valesky have every right to put forth that argument — but similarly, it allows others to point out their rather scary beliefs.
If you’d like to see the full report (pdf), I warn you that it is almost entirely written IN ALL CAPS (for no clear reason, there are a few chunks that revert to normal capitalization — including a big chunk in the middle, that starts mid-section). I have no idea why so much of the paper is in ALL CAPS, but I’m kind of offended by it. Can we please remove their “privilege” to put out such things until they’ve learned to not maltreat capital letters?
The paper attempts to list out various examples of types of cyberstalking and cyberbullying — some of which seem pretty ridiculous:
LEAVING IMPROPER MESSAGES ON ONLINE MESSAGE BOARDS OR SENDING HURTFUL AND DAMAGING MESSAGES TO OTHERS
“Improper”? Seem a little broad to you? Does that mean the next person who comments here about something off-topic is a cyberbully?
“FLAMING” (HURTFUL, CRUEL, AND OFTENTIMES INTIMIDATING MESSAGES INTENDED TO INFLAME, INSIGHT, OR ENRAGE)
Whoo boy. An awful lot of you in the comments better watch out…
“HAPPY SLAPPING” (RECORDING PHYSICAL ASSAULTS ON MOBILE PHONES OR DIGITAL CAMERAS, THEN DISTRIBUTING THEM TO OTHERS)
Holy crap. 2005 wants its silly “crazy children” meme back. Yes, there were a few instances of this extremely brief “fad” that came and went in like a month half a decade ago. Then the next internet meme came along.
“TROLLING” (DELIBERATELY AND DECEITFULLY POSTING INFORMATION TO ENTICE GENUINELY HELPFUL PEOPLE TO RESPOND (OFTEN EMOTIONALLY), OFTEN DONE TO PROVOKE OTHERS)
Ooh, once again. Commenters beware.
EXCLUSION (INTENTIONALLY AND CRUELLY EXCLUDING SOMEONE FROM AN ONLINE GROUP).
Seriously? If we don’t let you into the club, it’s now a form of cyberbullying? It makes you wonder what happened to these particular Senators when they were kids.
The paper also attacks “anonymity,” again ignoring how anonymity can often be extremely helpful to kids who wish to discuss things and ask questions without revealing who they are.
As for where they’re going with this? Well, you guessed it: they’re planning to introduce new laws to deal with cyberbullying (even though NY already has such a law). The plan is to extend two existing areas of law: “stalking in the third degree” will now include cyberbullying, and “manslaughter in the second degree” will be expanded to “include the emerging problem of bullycide.”
This is basically a “Lori Drew” law. And it’s ridiculous. If I say something to someone and they then go commit suicide, should I be guilty of manslaughter? Do the folks behind this not realize that this doesn’t help prevent suicides, but it encourages them in giving people who are upset by something someone said extra incentive to kill themselves to “get back” at the person who was mean to them.
The cyberstalking part is no less ridiculous. It’s ridiculously broad. It does not require that the person accused of cyberstalking initiate the activity, it does not require intent to harm or frighten, and a single message can be a cause of action. Think about that for a second. Someone could send you a message, you could do a single reply with no ill will or bad intent… and be guilty of the crime of cyberstalking. Damn. Do the folks writing this bill not realize how widely this will be abused?
Hopefully no one is so offended in reading such a dangerous proposal that they go out and commit suicide. At least be comforted in knowing that it won’t allow for the authors to be accused of manslaughter until after the bill passes.
Update… Arizona also has it’s share of wusses…
Proverbs 24:10 (don’t be a wuss)
If you faint in a crisis, you are weak…
Ariz. bill against ‘annoying’ online to get change
By TERRY TANG Apr 4, 2012 9:12 PM (ET)
PHOENIX (AP) – Arizonans venturing online may have to think twice before leaving a comment on a website.
Words that someone could view as “annoying” or “offensive” on Facebook or Twitter, for example, could be deemed a criminal offense under a bi-partisan bill that’s moving swiftly to Gov. Jan Brewer’s desk.
The bill would update telephone harassment and stalking laws by adding the use of computers or smartphones.
Supporters say the measure would help victims of online stalking and harassment whose cases have been dismissed in court because state law has not caught up with the technology.
“There’s a bona fide need to protect people from one-on-one harassment,” said Rep. Vic Williams, a Tucson Republican who has been a key supporter of the bill.
Critics say the proposal goes too far.
“Speaking to annoy or offend is not a crime,” said David Horowitz, the executive director of the Media Coalition, a New York-based First Amendment advocacy group, adding that the measure is unconstitutionally broad.
The measure’s sponsor Tucson Republican Rep. Tim Vogt said late Wednesday the bill will be updated to address such concerns.
“This is not meant to affect constitutionally protected free speech or activity or speech authorized by law,” Vogt said, adding that he decided to amend the plan after hearing from concerned supporters in the state House.
As written, if the bill becomes law, Horowitz said, speech done in satire, political debate or even sports trash talking could get people in unnecessary legal trouble.
“Somebody who posts on their Facebook page and they happen to be an Arizona Diamondbacks fan … whoever their rivals are, they can say ‘Hey your team stinks, and I hope you lose,'” Horowitz said.
“Is that an intent to offend or annoy? There’s a lot of common banter this would potentially apply to,” he said.
The group has asked Brewer to veto the measure. So far, Brewer has not publicly commented on their letter.
Williams said he welcomes groups like the Media Coalition to weigh in.
But he rejected claims from those he called “crackpots and conspiracy theorists” who he says have associated the bill with Orwellian images of authoritarian governments seeking to crack down of freedom of expression.
Vogt said the bill has been misrepresented as overly broad by critics.
“Some people have glommed onto the older language,” he said, characterizing the legislation as simply an update to the state’s “telephone stalking bill.”
Across the country, more than 30 states have laws against harassment and stalking that reference electronic communication, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Several states have legislation in place similar to the proposal awaiting a final vote in the Arizona House.
Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall, who worked with legislators on the bill, said harassment laws need to keep up with technology, calling cries of Internet censorship “overblown and unrealistic.”
“People’s First Amendment right to say horrible things is not being infringed upon,” she said.
LaWall said comments posted online have to be directed at a certain target to face prosecution.
James Weinstein, an Arizona State University professor who teaches constitutional law, said that without changes the statute’s wording leaves it vulnerable to being overturned. Unlike telephones, online chatter is open to a much wider audience, Weinstein said.
“Now that they’re extending it to the Internet generally or electronic media generally, it loses that natural limitation to targeted individuals,” he said. “I think this is just bad drafting.
“I don’t think they’re trying to be like China,” Weinstein said in reference to that nation’s restrictive Internet laws.
Weinstein said this law may lead to some self-censoring, but he doesn’t think it will result in a rush of prosecutions.
“Even the world’s worst prosecutor wouldn’t prosecute” someone for bring offensive or annoying online, he said.
But LaWall said the law is needed, saying too often she has seen courts dismiss cases of stalking or harassment simply because the law hasn’t caught up to the technology.
“Right now if an individual attempts to terrify or intimidate or harass somebody by sending them a text on their phone, then it’s not really covered by the current statutes,” she said. Texting wasn’t around then, she said.
Elizabeth Ditlevson, director of the Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said updating the law won’t hurt people’s free speech rights.
“If you can show your speech is to express an opinion, that’s different than using speech to harass, to degrade, to stalk another person,” Ditlevson said. “The longer we wait to pass the law, the longer people wait to be protected.”
I Corinthians 13:11
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me…