Arizona Passes Sweeping Internet Censorship Bill…
TeaParty.org (Info Wars) – The state legislature of Arizona has passed a bill that vastly broadens telephone harassment laws and applies them to the Internet and other means of electronic communication.
The law, which is being pushed under the guise of an anti-bullying campaign, would mean that anything communicated or published online that was deemed to be “offensive” by the state, including editorials, illustrations, and even satire could be criminally punished.
Text from the bill:
A. It is unlawful for any person, with intent to terrify, intimidate, threaten, harass, annoy or offend, to use
a telephone 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. It is also unlawful to otherwise disturb by repeated anonymous telephone calls electronic or digital communications the peace, quiet or right of privacy of any person at the place where the telephone call or calls communications were received.
The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund breaks down Arizona House Bill 2549:
“The bill is sweepingly broad, and would make it a crime to communicate via electronic means speech that is intended to ‘annoy,’ ‘offend,’ ‘harass’ or ‘terrify,’ as well as certain sexual speech. Because the bill is not limited to one-to-one communications, H.B. 2549 would apply to the Internet as a whole, thus criminalizing all manner of writing, cartoons, and other protected material the state finds offensive or annoying.”
First Amendment activist group Media Coalition has written to Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, urging her not to sign the legislation into law. The letter notes that the terms used in the bill are not defined in the statute or by reference, and thereby the law could be broadly applied to almost any statement.
“H.B. 2549 would make it a crime to use any electronic or digital device to communicate using obscene, lewd or profane language or to suggest a lewd or lascivious act if done with intent to ‘annoy,’ ‘offend,’ ‘harass’ or ‘terrify,’” the letter notes. … ‘Lewd’ and ‘profane’ are not defined in the statute or by reference. ‘Lewd’ is generally understood to mean lusty or sexual in nature and ‘profane’ is generally defined as disrespectful or irreverent about religion or religious practices.”
“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.” the letter continues.
In this respect the law could even technically be applied to someone posting a status update on Facebook. “Speech protected by the First Amendment is often intended to offend, annoy or scare but could be prosecuted under this law.” The Media Coalition letter continues.
“A Danish newspaper posted pictures of Muhammad that were intended to be offensive to make a point about religious tolerance. If a Muslim in Arizona considers the images profane and is offended, the paper could be prosecuted. Some Arizona residents may consider Rush Limbaugh’s recent comments about a Georgetown law student lewd. He could be prosecuted if he intended his comments to be offensive. Similarly, much general content available in the media uses racy or profane language and is intended to offend, annoy or even terrify.”
“Bill Maher’s stand up routines and Jon Stewart’s nightly comedy program, Ann Coulter’s books criticizing liberals and Christopher Hitchens’ expressions of his disdain for religion, Stephen King’s novels or the Halloween films all could be subject to this legislation. Even common taunting about sports between rival fans done online is frequently meant to offend or annoy, and is often done using salty and profane language.”
Just WHO will define “offensive”, “annoy”, “lewd”, and “obscene”? Dangerous path Arizona is heading down. Let’s hope Governor Brewer vetos this legislation.