Friday, April 06, 2012

On trollin' through Arizona

Okay, so politicians' complete and willful ignorance of the way the Internet really works would be entertaining, if it weren't so dangerous. For instance: In Arizona (oh, always Arizona), the state legislature has passed HB 2549, which states (in part):

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.

Of course the bill is pretty much indefensible on grounds of free speech, intent, general vagueness, whiny-titty-babytude, and basic geography. But the Arizona government has demonstrated that silly concerns like reason aren't high on their priority list. So all y'all who are just out to annoy me and offend me using your computers (or cell phones or tablets or whatever)? Y'all had better not be from Arizona, is all.

(Actually, you'd better hope you're not from Arizona anyway. That place is getting rough.)

In the Arizona state legislature's defense, they’re making a well-meaning attempt to extend the existing telephone harassment law to include other digital media. They really are trying to protect victims bullying, harassment, or domestic violence. But in the process, they’ve outlawed taunting your friends via text throughout the entirety of a football game, or e-mailing your mom a blasphemous photo with the intent of her replying, “Oh, ACG.” They’re outlawing offensive content before it’s offended anyone. And they’ve demonstrated a complete lack of understanding of how the Internet works–what if the victim is in Phoenix, but the harasser is in Cincinnati? Does the Phoenix PD call the Cincy PD with an extradition request? What if the harasser is in Cincinnati, targeting a victim in Los Angeles, but bouncing it through a tor server in Phoenix? What if two people in Massachusetts are getting into it on a comment thread that is triggering to a person in Arizona?

This is what happens when you leave Internet legislation up to people who still say “and then the ‘at’ sign” in the middle of their e-mail addresses.

(Post adapted from the original over at Feministe.)

No comments: