Arizona Politicians Scramble To Adjust Internet Censorship Bill After The Internet Mocks Them For Being Clueless

from the this-won't-end-well dept

You know what's a bad sign? When you're a state legislature, and you pass what's clearly an unconstitutional law that criminalizes using technology to "annoy or offend" others -- and then you have to scramble after-the-fact to amend the bill you already passed. Yes, thanks to a rather loud public mocking of Arizona politicians for ignoring the First Amendment in its internet censorship bill, the Arizona legislature is trying to amend the bill quickly.

Here's a thought, though: if you passed a bill so bad that people around the globe are mocking you, perhaps it suggests you don't know what you're doing. At that point, shouldn't you back away from mucking with the internet, and leave that to the professionals who actually understand technology? Somehow, diving back in and pretending that this time you'll get it right doesn't inspire confidence. And, in fact, the details suggest that any amendments considered at this point will almost certainly still be First Amendment violations.
“Even so narrowed, the statute is unconstitutional. You simply cannot prohibit emails that are said to be intended to offend. That violates the First Amendment flat out,” said University of Chicago Law School professor Geoffrey Stone, who specializes in constitutional law. “You can prohibit email if the recipient has requested you to stop sending them. That’s different -- but that’s not what this says.”
Still, I think the most ridiculous words of all come from Rep. Steve Farley from Phoenix whose statement on the bill is really quite stunning:
"I know people are focusing on unintended consequences of the bill, but I don’t think that's realistic," Farley said. "I think this is a wakeup call that we should be civil online and in society in general. I don’t think it's right we should ever be able to threaten violence against each other online."
I love how he doesn't explain why the unintended consequences aren't "realistic." He just insists that's the case. Of course, anyone who's actually been around policymaking (especially when it comes to technology) knows that there are always unintended consequences. And it's not hard to find unintended consequences of a bill like this that broadly outlaws "annoying" people with electronic devices.

But even more ridiculous is that second half. You don't legislate civility. We don't make a law saying you have to say "please" and "thank you." Look, some people are obnoxious jerks out there. That's not a legislative problem. Finally, his claim that people shouldn't be able to threaten violence against each other might have some weight if the bill was actually limited to people threatening violence. But it's not.

How do people like this get elected?

Filed Under: arizona, censorship, cyberbullying


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  1. identicon
    naraphim, 8 Apr 2012 @ 3:32pm

    civility

    The first amendment is a foundation of American civility - more so than any bill regulating online etiquette. It is bizarre to think civility would be advanced by compromising a guarantor of free speech.

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