Arizona Internet Censorship Bill So Ridiculous, Even The MPAA And RIAA Are Against It

from the do-politicians-even-read-these-things? dept

A new bill has passed through the Arizona state legislature that would allow for broad censorship of the internet. As with many such bills, this one is weakly “disguised” as an attempt to deal with online “bullying” and “stalking.” However, as with many such attempts to outlaw “being a jerk” online, this one goes way, way too far. It says that it’s unlawful to “annoy or offend” someone online, for example. The bill is so bad that even Media Coalition — a group backed by the MPAA and the RIAA — is arguing against it.

The specifics of the bill take an existing law meant to stop harassing phone calls and applies it broadly to the internet. As Media Coalition points out, the bill:

… takes a law meant to address irritating phone calls and applies it to communication on web sites, blogs, listserves and other Internet communication. H.B. 2549 is not limited to a one to one conversation between two specific people. The communication does not need to be repetitive or even unwanted. There is no requirement that the recipient or subject of the speech actually feel offended, annoyed or scared. Nor does the legislation make clear that the communication must be intended to offend or annoy the reader, the subject or even any specific person.

As Eugene Volokh notes in his own discussion of the bill, a telephone is a one-to-one device. The internet is many-to-many, and it makes for a very different situation when you’re talking about content designed to annoy or offend:

Telephones are basically one-to-one devices, so a phone call that uses profane language to offend is likely meant only to offend the one recipient, rather than to persuade or inform anyone; but computers used to post Facebook messages or send Twitter messages or post blog items can offend some listeners while persuading and informing others.

So, under the statute, posting a comment to a newspaper article — or a blog — saying that the article or post author is “fucking out of line” would be a crime: It’s said with intent to offend, it uses an electronic or digital device, and it uses what likely will be seen as profane language (see, e.g., City of Columbia Falls v. Bennett (Mont. 1991)). Likewise if a blog poster were to post the same in response to a commenter’s comment. Likewise if someone posts something in response to an e-mail on an e-mail-based discussion list, or in a chatroom, or wherever else. (Note that if “profane” is read to mean not vulgarly insulting, but instead religiously offensive, see City of Bellevue v. Lorang (Wash. 2000), then the statute would be unconstitutional as well.)

The same would be true if someone posts something lewd in one of these places in order to annoy or offend someone, for instance if he posts a comment on a police-run public discussion page that says something like “the chief of police can suck my dick,” to borrow subject matter from a prior Arizona telephone harassment case. And note that, given that case, the speech need not even be about one of the recipients, so long as it’s intended to annoy or offend one of the recipients.

It still amazes me that politicians think that these are good ideas. They’re grandstanding against “cyberbullying”, of course, but if they’re going to pass laws that have a major impact on the internet, can’t they at least talk to someone who understands this stuff first?

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Companies: media coalition, mpaa, riaa

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Comments on “Arizona Internet Censorship Bill So Ridiculous, Even The MPAA And RIAA Are Against It”

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102 Comments
MrWilson says:

Arizona has quickly outrun Virginia and Tennessee for coming up with the stupidest state laws. They’ve tried to piss off ethnic people, women, and now anyone with an internet connection. They keep expanding the demographic they’re trying to drive out of the state out of sheer frustration. Soon the state will only contain a bunch of old white conservatives who don’t use the internet, which is probably what they want.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Arizona has quickly outrun Virginia and Tennessee for coming up with the stupidest state laws. They’ve tried to piss off ethnic people, women, and now anyone with an internet connection. They keep expanding the demographic they’re trying to drive out of the state out of sheer frustration. Soon the state will only contain a bunch of old white conservatives who don’t use the internet, which is probably what they want.

Give them some credit, you racist fuckhead, they think in terms of physical objects, unlike you where you value cat pictures and shitty out comments. I’m all in for freedom of internet, but you fucking dorks are fucking annoying, you can’t even write a tolerable comment, go consult a fucking english teacher, you fucking immature brat. Hopefully, by talking into your langauge, you will be presauded. Either way, mdon’t make shitty comments, and cite your source. fuckin. Persauded?

cjstg (profile) says:

Re: What's the cost?

i am so embarrassed to admit that i am from arizona. it is such a beautiful place to live with a great climate. unfortunately, it is also filled with right wing extremist idiots. it is very difficult to be a democrat (even a conservative one) in this state.

i have sent messages to my state reps and senators as well as the governor urging her to veto the bill. however, it is hard to say how she will react. sometimes she couldn’t find her ass with both hands, but occasionally she will rise up in moments of lucidity and veto these stupid bills. i guess it all depends on whether the bill’s sponsors have something on her.

as mike was saying, the really sad part about this is that it modifies an existing law that addresses telephone communication. those laws might make some sense. but now that the bill has modified those laws it is entirely possible the the whole thing will be found unconstitutional. that would effectively remove the protections that the original law provided.

are there any nice blue states out there that i can move to?

sb101 (profile) says:

Re: What's the cost?

WysiWyg: My thoughts exactly. They should tally the costs of the time to pass the bill, fight it in court and then publish that figure and then ask the citizens if that cost really couldn’t have been applied to something truly needed and worthwhile in these days of tight budgets.

Also, aren’t the Repubs into LESS government intervention in our lives. This is not a prime example of that.

Anonymous Coward says:

I believe that Eugene’s waxing poetic about what he perceives as legal infirmities in the Arizona law, as amended, is quite a bit over the top aince some of his points may pertain to the law even in the absence of the amendment. It is regrettable that he commented about just the initial provision of the law without any attempt to apply the definition provision to it, not only with respect to the law as amended but also with respect to the law as unamended.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“Yeah, screw rights. Americans don’t need rights.

This is about profits, good old boys, and agenda – what could be more important?”

Fuck you, you’re in it for making worthless snarky comments, that you lack the vocal and social communication to say it in front of a physical being. To you, it’s their view of profits.

Anonymous Coward says:

what this shows is the complete lack of knowledge politicians have concerning the Internet, yet they are still trying to do through it what was happening in a ‘real world’ environment 20+ years ago. instead of continuously making total plums of themselves, why dont these idiots admit that they are clueless and either resign or go to evening classes! anything but this type of behavior!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

What this shows is a complete lack of understanding for democracy and free speech. Most of these clowns got elected on a platform of freedom (guns), small government (where?) and economy – which Az continues to spiral downward there too. But they were elected and if given a choice, there is a good chance they will be elected again. That’s the jaw dropper.

G Thompson (profile) says:

I’m offended that this bill does not affect me. I mean what sort of tinpot legislature is this Arizona place that they can only legislate their small part of the world and cannot affect me, an Australian who would like to offend, annoy and call out idiots where ever they may be.

That’s discriminatory, and not only annoys me but offends my sense of equality.

PaulT (profile) says:

“It still amazes me that politicians think that these are good ideas. They’re grandstanding…”

That’s pretty much the answer to your own question. Something that seems to be quite common in politics is for a politician to make a “name” for themselves by tackling a controversial issue, try to force through some bad laws and then use the capital to further their own career. Whether the law would be effective or even counter-productive doesn’t enter their minds if they can profit from it – those genuinely interested in the consequences would already have done their research.

This is neither something new nor something unique to American politics. I’m always reminded of UK politician David Alton, an utterly insufferable idiot whose reaction to the (false) tabloid link between Child’s Play 3 and the Jamie Bulger murder case was to try and automatically ban any video rated 15 or over (US reader: imagine banning anything rated PG-13 and above). He failed, thankfully, but not long after trying to pull this crap he was granted a peerage.

I presume it’s the same thing here… the exact cause being addressed changes, but the mindset of the career politician does not.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“Will someone please think of the Trolls? What will they do if this bill is passed?”

No, fuck them, they need a daily dose of consequence from their usual act of putting up an image as a racist who spams on every tf2 game-chat, and uses it’s own trollery to justify its action.

I swear, why is this article full of children comments? Take a hint from hackernews commentors. But don’t over do it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“I hope this passes. It will take about on hour before Reddit sues the entire political body of Arizona, personal and bureaucracy.”

That explain why there are so much shitty and vulgar comments, someone must’ve linked to a popular subreddit, and the redditors are going to celebrate and prove their toughness and rightneious by shitting out horrible comments that would be no different from male toddlers on steroids and a dictionary from southpark.
Pathetic.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I guess the Arizona State Legislature blows ponies

Or maybe dead iguanas. Fuck them where they breathe. What a bunch of over-reaching sacks of monkey shit they are. People who vote for bills like this should be thrown into an active volcano, and their offspring sent to Catholic orphanages.

PEOPLE LIKE YOU SHOULD BE STRAPPED ONTO A SLAUGHTERING DEVICE THAT RUNS ON INFINITE POWER, WITH COUNTLESS OF SHARP BLADES THAT SKEWERS TIME, BLUNT FORCES THAT SHATTERS MATTER, AND FLAMES THAT SETS THE SOUL INTO THE INFERNO, IT WILL KILL YOU, IN THE SLOWEST MANNERS AS POSILBLE, AS SLOW AS TO FILL EVERY METRIC SECONDS THAT HUMANITY CAN NOT THINK OF BE CONCETRATE OF MIND-RENDERING AND BODY MUTILATING PAIN, AND THEN AT THE LAST SECOND WHERE YOU ARE TO BE TO RECIEVE YOUR ETERNAL PEACE DEATH IN THE REALM OF NOTHINGNESS, A LIFE SUPPORT WILL BE ATTACHED TO YOUR VESSEL, WHICH ALSO RUNS ON INFINITE POWER, WILL SUSPEND YOUR LIFESPAN TOWARDS THE IMMORTAL, YOU WILL RECIEVE AN ENDLESS LIFE OF DAMNATION, YOU WILL BEG WITH EVERY LIMBS REMOVE, AND EVERY ORIFACE RAZED, AND WHATEVER YOUR TORMENTED MIND CAN CONJURE, FOR DEATH, TO END IT ALL. NO. YOU WANT DEATH TO OTHERS? THEN BE A SLAVE FOR THIS MACHINE.

You want to be an annoying stupid piec of shithead, using the internet to “voice out” behind the computer, with many absurd comments, to which you acknowdlegde them?i.e: A pussy? Then stay.

fb39ca4 (profile) says:

As Media Coalition points out, the bill:

… takes a fucking law meant to fucking address fucking irritating phone calls and applies it to communication on fucking web sites, fucking blogs, fucking listserves and other fucking Internet communication. H.B. 25-fucking-49 is not fucking limited to a fucking one to one conversation between two fucking specific people. The fucking communication fucking does not need to fucking be repetitive or even fucking unwanted. There is no fucking requirement that the fucking recipient or fucking subject of the fucking speech fucking actually feel fucking offended, annoyed or fucking scared. Nor does the fucking legislation make fucking clear that the fucking communication fucking must be fucking intended to fucking offend or fucking annoy the reader, the fucking subject or even any fucking specific fucking person.

Anonymous Coward says:

is not limited to a one to one conversation between two specific people. The communication does not need to be repetitive or even unwanted. There is no requirement that the recipient or subject of the speech actually feel offended, annoyed or scared. Nor does the legislation make clear that the communication must be intended to offend or annoy the reader, the subject or even any specific person.

Am I missing something here or does this outlaw every possible comunication?

Anonymous Coward says:

Multimedia, and other stupid terms.

I hate when lawmakers make laws with stupid terms. For example, when you put “Multimedia” in a law, are you excluding anything that is SINGLE media? “Your honor, this device clearly only accepts audio, and is incapable of video or text.” “Case dismissed!”

And they really like “electronic” and “digital”. I’m really struggling to think of why they care if the activity is done with something analog. Does this mean I can harass someone as long as I use 2 tin cans and a string, or carrier pigeons, or smoke signals?

And sometimes if they don’t like what a word means, then instead of using some other word, or maybe using TWO words, they just say that word means something else. “‘Immediate family member’ means a spouse, parent, child or sibling or any other person who regularly resides in a person’s household or resided in a person’s household within the past six months.” I never realized my college roommate was an immediate family member for 6 months after I graduated!

“A specific person’s internet or wireless activity” – Now, I suppose it’s possible that you could have a wireless system without Internet. But it’s still stupid to phrase it this way. “Yes, your honor, I installed a keylogger on her computer. But it didn’t monitor her Internet or wireless! And besides, her husband and children used the computer too, so it wasn’t just a specific person!” “Well, you’re probably guilty of something, but not under THIS law. Case dismissed!”

clusterfucktothemax says:

Arizona -- let it secede already

Why doesn’t the state secede already? Those folks have been too long in the sun with their bumper crop of prisons, obsession with the birthers, immigration drama, sadist Sheriff Joe Arpaio … and now they’re worried about someone OFFENDING them? FUCK them. In fact, FUCK the entire state. Let the crazies secede already since they’re so far detached from reality and the rest of the country. Let them have their own desert community/country and see how long they get along without federal funds. One good thing about Arizona … its now making Flori-duh! look good by comparison. Fucking loons!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

ohohohohho, you’re going to pull the “umad” trick? or what about the “it’s the internet, get used to it, faggot, as I use this sentence to justify my right to shit everywhere” card? Fuck you, really.

While the dumbasses made this law needs to chill, you need to fuckiung control yourself on the fucking internet, you fucking kid. The reason why “annoy or offend” was stated in the bill, shows that we, as people, have had enough of bypassing you childrens and your fucking constant need to spam the text-chat on every tf2 with racial slurs. It’s not offensive, it’s pure fucking annoying, it’s lame shitty trollery by 4chan’s standard, it merits you less respect to an actual racist because chances are you are not an actual racist, just a wannabe racist lying for “lols” or whatever you call it. “ignore it, it’s the internet, I have an advance degree on the internet dumbass”, that won’t solve shit, sherlock. People with so little whit can just take a fucking shit on the comment section, and can be fueled with silent attention, or no attention at all, they run and never come back to this website, like some sort of prank that involves with egg/toiletpaper. And if I want to exert my natural right to free speech, I will drown you in my own steam: PULL YOUR OWN WEIGHT, SHUT THE FUCK UP!

Anonymous Coward says:

One-to-one is not the issue

Telephones are basically one-to-one devices, so a phone call that uses profane language to offend is likely meant only to offend the one recipient, rather than to persuade or inform anyone; but computers used to post Facebook messages or send Twitter messages or post blog items can offend some listeners while persuading and informing others.

Emails are one-to-one, but it still wouldn’t make sense to apply these kinds of laws to email communications. Far more important than the one-to-one issue is the fact that phone calls tend to demand the callee’s attention while emails from a particular sender are easily blocked or ignored by the recipient. It’s easier to harass somebody with a series of nasty phone calls than with a series of nasty emails.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

ohohohohho, you’re going to pull the “umad” trick? or what about the “it’s the internet, get used to it, faggot, as I use this sentence to justify my right to shit everywhere” card? Fuck you, really.

Pull your own weight, you dumb shit. They need to not get offended easily and pass these laws, you need control yourself to not act like a fucking little shithead that can justify their actions because they are “trolls”. This problem can be solved starting from the individual, so act up, and hopefully, shitheads like you will be minimized in the future, and because said individual would possess such traits, they will learn by themself not to get offended and go out to pass out these absurd laws. Then again, hypocrisy can be played, it’s natural.

Chris (profile) says:

You have got to be kidding me!

This is such a waste of the taxpayers money. The bill is so broad that anyone couold get prosecuted for simply stating their opinion. Intent can be very difficult to prove. The first amendment of the constitution reads “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” How can I speak my mind and convey my point of view under this law? The short answer is that I could not because someone somewhere may be offended.

George says:

Does this mean Arizona will be monitoring movies on TV (AN ELECTRONIC DEVICE). It is unlawful for any person, with intent to terrify, intimidate, threaten, harass, annoy or offend, to use 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. Watch out Steven Spielberg!!!

Anonymous Coward says:

After reading all the comments here, I should work as a politican, get lotsa money and hire bullies to bully at school, because obviosuly you fucking nerds didn’t recieve enough asskicking to stop you from making electronic comments with weak and pathetic hands. Nerds will not inheret the world, bullies will shape the world.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Wow. How many bullies does it take to create an internet?
Infinity +1. Bullies are to stupid to create anything.
And yet, here you are. Too stupid to attack with words, too weak to bully people yourself.
Nerds have already inherited everything, worm.
Bullies don’t shape anything except for the future of college sports.

classified says:

WHAT THE HELL

On the internet swears are often used as jokes those idiots, i swear to god politicians get dumber by the day, speaking of which the unpassed and passed policies designed against piracy invade privacy are just stupid, the copyright infringements are usually used in ways that do not affect the sales but are jokes that might in fact introduce it, and the ones that are copyright infringements can easily get around blocks using simple add-ons, tricks, or simply post it in other areas, this will barely delay the piracy for a short period of time, it also removes a form of right to a fast and speedy trial from availability, not to mention just how easy it is to censor things that have nothing to do with piracy and claim it does

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