Flame Emails Are Not A Crime

from the no-laws-broken dept

A few more details might be useful to understand what really happened in this case, but a woman accused of harassment for sending “e-mails laced with obscenities and references to Adolf Hitler and Osama bin Laden” to a website that had pro-death penalty statements has been cleared, after the judge said she didn’t actually break any laws. Since there were just a few emails, they weren’t seen as harassing, and since they were just directed to the website in general (which asked for feedback), rather than the individual who specifically received them, the judge determined that they weren’t specific threats or harassments. While the ruling makes sense on the free speech side of things, these other arguments don’t seem to make as much sense. Just because the website doesn’t indicate who the emails are going to, they’re still going to someone. Either way, for those of you who enjoy participating in various flame wars, it certainly seems like this ruling says that free speech protects you (at least in this court’s jurisdiction) — assuming you don’t become threatening or continue to harass the person.

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Comments on “Flame Emails Are Not A Crime”

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Steve Mueller (user link) says:


Unless there were actually threats in the E-mails and Web postings, she should have been cleared. While the woman seems a bit over-the-edge, name calling isn’t a crime (at least, not that I’m aware of).

However, the defense attorney seems like a moron after saying, “They’re angry, they’re vulgar, they’re curse words – and they’re not directed at Mr. Romano.” As Mike mentioned, who did she think the E-mails were going to — some artificially intelligent computer? If you respond to a contact on a Web site, I would assume your E-mail was directed toward the Web master and anybody else who worked for the site unless somebody was specifically mentioned.

Of course, I bet if she’d sent a similar letter to the White House Web site, the story would have had a different ending.

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