Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick




Trolling Is Now Illegal: Two Years In Jail

from the there-go-half-our-comments dept

Why do we still let our government attach totally unrelated bills to each other to sneak in terribly written laws? It seems to keep happening, and the latest one is that a bill attached to a bigger bill concerning funding the Department of Justice (something very few politicians would ever vote against) has a tiny bit of language that now means if you're anonymously annoying online, you face two years in jail. The specific text says that using the internet "without disclosing his identity and with intent to annoy... shall be fined under title 18 or imprisoned not more than two years, or both." Yes. "Intent to annoy" seems like an incredibly vague standard and has basically criminalized an awful lot of the internet -- including quite a few of the folks who comment here at Techdirt. Anyway, for those of you who enjoy anonymously trolling all over the place online -- watch out. You may face jailtime. Of course, it seems quite unlikely that "intent to annoy" would hold up under Constitutional review, but it may be some time until that test case comes. Update: Commenters at BoingBoing are saying that the original News.com article is horribly misleading, and that Declan McCullough got the story wrong in a major way. The text that McCullough quoted as if from this new bill is not quite the case. If you search on the actual text of the bill, it simply makes a minor update to much older language that is already law concerning "annoying" communications.

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  • identicon
    Anonymously Annoying, 9 Jan 2006 @ 10:46am

    No Subject Given

    Duz tHat MEeN thAT ALL tHa PeEpLe THat tYpe lyke ThiS wILL bE JayLeD?

    ...God, I hope so.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous of Course, 9 Jan 2006 @ 10:46am

    Let me be the first

    Does Dorpus know about this law?
    He's been strangely silent lately.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    CloakedMirror, 9 Jan 2006 @ 11:04am

    How does this work?

    How does this work with the ideas outlined in the story that follows/precedes?? this one? I am talking about how there is perhaps a movement afoot to regulate in some way the companies that either facilitate or otherwise assist in the censorship of the citizenry.
    On the one hand, we want legislation to keep companies from participating in the censorship of the people; while on the other hand, we have legislation that is aimed a preventing people from speaking out.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    giafly, 9 Jan 2006 @ 11:07am

    Good Grief

    I can safely say that these guys are fucking morons who should be shot.
    This is because I don't intend to "annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass any person...who receives the communications". So don't worry about it.

    But "Anonymous of Course" is in deep shit re his hurtful comment about dorpus.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    anon, 9 Jan 2006 @ 11:19am

    How utterly retarded

    I actually wrote my representative about this the moment I heard about it. It is absolutely retarded the way they are trying to clense the internet of all bad and evil. I don't care if it's for the children, for the harassed masses, the little old lady shut-ins, or whoever. They need to just accept that with anonymous posting, freedom of speech will be infringed. Many people are intimidated to speak using their own name, but they have an opinion, flame, angry rant inside them that needs to come out, and that will annoy someone. Without an anonymous place to voice that opinion, no one would ever hear it.

    This goes back to my rant (elsewhere) about the general clensing of gaming products and the internet. As politicians come across more and more things they don't understand, they would really like to keep them in check until they have it all figured out, which could possibly be never. They don't understand that there are adults that enjoy harassing back and forth, dirty jokes, and even animated hooker beating (I personally like beating real hookers). They want to make things clean for the children, who by all rights should have their parents permission (which means the parents should look over what their kids want to see FIRST, not later when it becomes a problem) before doing anything on the internet or with games. Judging from past circumstances, this came from some whiny kid whose parents weren't watching them not liking being flamed by someone they didnt know for some stupid comment they made.

    Oh, and whoever posted this is a doodie head. Neener neener! I have the intent to annoy you, and I'm not using my name!!1!ONE!1!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      anon, 9 Jan 2006 @ 11:21am

      Re: How utterly retarded

      That should have been *without anonymous posting, not *with anonymous posting. Sorry.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 Jan 2006 @ 11:41am

      Re: How utterly retarded

      Oh My God! You called me a doodie head! I will report you to the FBI!

      Also, to annoy you, I will inform you that I find you a "doodie head" yourself. This instantly demonstrates the stupidity of the law, because I'm not under federal jurisdiction, so you cannot seek recourse, despite the fact that I did exactly the same as you did. Strikes me as mildly unfair, to say the least...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        anon, 9 Jan 2006 @ 11:48am

        Re: How utterly retarded

        I'm gonna tell my mommie on you. Err...my government?

        Really, though, I know I'm a doodie head.

        It does beg the question, however: Do people from other countries posting on [insert your favorite conveyance method of annoying posts here] which is hosted in the U.S. break the law? Will Interpol get involved? What about an American citizen posting internationally? Will some whiny kid from Canada be able to have me thrown in jail because his mother was a gerbil (or at least because I stated that I believed such)?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          FireMon, 9 Jan 2006 @ 12:26pm

          Re: How utterly retarded

          No, but the Canuck kid whose mother was a hampster, and whose father smelled of elderberries might have a legitimate gripe. Now go away, or I will taunt you a second time.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      MENTAL?, 22 Jan 2006 @ 6:53pm

      Re: How utterly retarded

      how absturd are you that you would like to remotely harass someone in front of the whole world if you need to vent tnen you should consult a therpist or maybe find a friend or a family member to express your displeasure with the person. when you display something about aperson using there real identity you are committed an act of defamation to one's character that otherwise would had not been a factor upon a person. what the internet is soley intended for was a relating vital issues that can better serve the word some good not the acts of evil and misuse that disregards an entire internet system of it full capabilities. so be grateful that you use a annoymous identity or else people will have something to say bad about you.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      MENTAL?, 22 Jan 2006 @ 6:55pm

      Re: How utterly retarded

      how absturd are you that you would like to remotely harass someone in front of the whole world if you need to vent tnen you should consult a therpist or maybe find a friend or a family member to express your displeasure with the person. when you display something about aperson using there real identity you are committed an act of defamation to one's character that otherwise would had not been a factor upon a person. what the internet is soley intended for was a relating vital issues that can better serve the world some good not the acts of evil and misuse that disregards an entire internet system of it full capabilities. so be grateful that you use a annoymous identity or else people will have something to say bad about you.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Dosquatch, 9 Jan 2006 @ 11:29am

    Nintendo ennui

    Do really, really bad puns count?


    I'm annoyed at their intent. Does that mean I can put some congress critters in jail?
    Pretty please?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Nintendo Corp., 9 Jan 2006 @ 11:50am

      Re: Nintendo ennui

      We are annoyed at the suggestion that our products might be capable of boring a person to tears. We ask that Dosquatch be incarcerated immediately.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Bill, 9 Jan 2006 @ 11:36am

    What does annoy mean?

    So, If I post information on the internet sharing my personal political/religious/sports team views and I am very adamant about it, will that annoy those who have other views? That means that I'll be jailed for having an opinion, huh? How about that first amendment - you have the right to free speech, as long as you say what everyone else wants to hear.
    I thought 1984 was 21 years ago!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Braveheart, 9 Jan 2006 @ 11:38am

    Another law that won't be enforced

    Just what the world needs another law that won't be enforced.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    None of you Biznis, 9 Jan 2006 @ 11:56am

    Um.....

    .......AFAIK......the US is not the world (although many Americans may be shocked to find this out).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    4Blades, 9 Jan 2006 @ 11:58am

    Intent to annoy has been illegal for years...

    In NY state, and I'm sure many others, it is a crime to make any electronic communication to another with the intent to alarm OR annoy (yes, prank phone calls can get you arrested).
    NY Penal Law section 240.30

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    gmail man23, 9 Jan 2006 @ 12:56pm

    No Subject Given

    The stupid thing about this is, if you are an annoying person online, nd u don't want to go to jail, and divulge where u live, etc. Stalkers will come after you, who knows, you might've annoyed them or something. lol

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      thecaptain, 10 Jan 2006 @ 6:00am

      Re: No Subject Given

      Well at least we can finally strike back at the griefers and trollers if they stay legal :)

      jk


      I look forward to seeing Dorpus listed as public enemy number one by the FBI in a while :)

      Go D!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    John McNee, 10 Jan 2006 @ 9:41am

    This is what you deserve for trusting Declan...

    He's the guy who thought Gore said he'd invented the Internet.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Gurk Mouth MacGuintey, 11 Apr 2007 @ 7:28pm

    This is the most annoying phucking thread I've eve

    I'm gonna sue you schitbags under this new law for annoying me intentionally!

    Bastages!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous (I'm going to jail), 9 May 2007 @ 11:12pm

    Oops anonymous posting oh boy :O

    Your all dumbasses (oops broke the law) and I rule the internet (broke the law again) and I WILL RULE THE NET (Broke the law again.)

    I also think Microsoft is stupid and dumb (Broke the law again).

    Wow I'm in illegal sh*t this time. Help me lawyers. See how stupid the e-annoyance law is. Stupid congress and stupid President Bush (broke the law again 2 times more)

    I better report myself to the FBI. Goodbye people. I am going to jail or prison for 6th degree annoyance. I broke the law 6 times hahahaha :)) lol.

    We all broke the law. Every Americans broken the law. Oh No.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    someone, 9 Mar 2009 @ 3:42am

    Sure...yeah right

    Frankly, there are SO MANY PEOPLE trolling the internet and are in violation of this law, the cops should be flooded with tons of calls lighting up their switchboards all saying, "Help! Some troll is getting me!"...since this is the case, you think your local police or FBI has enough time and manpower to go after the thousands per state that are trolling right now?-no, they'd be so overwhelmed they'd not even show up because THATS how many troll--millions of them at any given time!!

    HA!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Chav Bling Bling, 25 Mar 2009 @ 8:28am

    The wicked troll of the east!!!

    I'm a fucking troll!!! NIGGERS!! I troll all the time, every single goddamn day, and I'm fucking good at it too!! I GO TO RANDOM WEBSITES LIKE THIS AND POST COMMENTS AND NEVER LEAVE!!! I've been threatened by BITCHES on moblog.net to have the police contacted because I harrass people!! AND NOT ONLY THAT, BUT MY ISP IS ALWAYS BEING REPORTED BY PEOPLE IN GENERAL!!!!!!! LIKE I CARE OR THEY (THE ISP) CARE!!! YOU WHORES!! I'm disliked because I'm honest? Because I say what I really feel without reserve? I grew up with the assumption that those things are admirable. I am an intelligent individual. I view honesty as a sign of respect toward a fellow person! And it is also how I learn from people, and posting comments that are provocative is also how I learn. I may be young but I'm not as ignorant as you may presume, and I'm mature and wise for a person my age. FUCK YOU!! You`re all filthy, stinking, ass-licking, cum-swallowing, cock-sucking, tit-eating, pussy-licking, knicker-sniffing, dog-fucking, gang-bang-loving SUPER SLUTS! Me and my buddies (six of us) would love to use your body for our pleasure, any stupid bitch that's up for it??? ...one dick in your cunt, one in your tight ass-hole, two dicks in your slimy mouth, and you could wank off the last two in each hand. While you get the spunk of two cocks in your mouth at the same time, two more would shoot their cum into your womb and belly, finishing off with you wanking and sucking the last two cocks over your ugly face and greasy tits. I can just imagine the spunk hanging from your chin like a sperm-beard..

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Dee, 6 Dec 2009 @ 2:06am

    The term "troll" can mean a number of different things, but in essence, a troll is a person who aims to have 'pleasure' at your expense. There are five main types of trolls. The first four are people who pretend to be someone that they are not - they create personae that you think are real, but they know is fictitious.

    Playtime Trolls: an individual plays a simple, short game. Such trolls are relatively easy to spot because their attack or provocation is fairly blatant, and the persona is fairly two-dimensional.

    Tactical Trolls: This is where the troller takes the game more seriously, creates a credible persona to gain confidence of others, and provokes strife in a subtle and invidious way.

    Strategic Trolls: A very serious form of game, involving the production of an overall strategy that can take months or years to develop. It can also involve a number of people acting together in order to invade a list.

    Domination Trolls: This is where the trollers' strategy extends to the creation and running of apparently bona-fide mailing lists.

    Psycho Trolls: These trolls have an unconscious psychological need to feel good by making others feel bad. Such people may use their real names on the internet, and they may not even realise that they are "trolling".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    unknowen, 7 Jan 2010 @ 8:22am

    The wicked troll of the east!!! trolls are not honest. They think they are & only believe themself like you if people watch close 90 % of stuff you guys say is bs. In realife you are cowards with mental illness, little friends, still living in moms basement. So do us a huge favor fu**off & get a life. And seek mental help.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    unknowen, 24 Feb 2010 @ 11:36am

    By the way trolls have mental illnesses. Look it up. These people stalk others thinking it's okay. well my mind says it's not normal. :)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Dark Star, 20 Jul 2010 @ 12:23pm

    Umm.

    Isn't freedom of expression protected in all forms of media?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    gsmcclellan, 10 Feb 2011 @ 6:45pm

    Seems eerily close to the Alien and Sedition acts where they started arresting people for annoying the government by having their own political views.

    But hey, to hell with the constitution, right?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Feb 2011 @ 6:55pm

    Yea, let's see them enforce it and go through billions of messages. I'm still gonna troll. >:D

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Troll, 23 Aug 2011 @ 6:35pm

    TROLLIN'

    YOZ MUST BE TROLLIN' MEZ.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Mark, 13 Mar 2012 @ 12:54pm

    No joke

    Trust me; I once trolled the internet about child molestation. The police visited my home. It is no joke. Troll at your own risk.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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