I am probably the last person on the internet to write about this (if Memeorandum is accurate), but let me say it does not surprise me:
Annoying someone via the Internet is now a federal crime.
It’s no joke. Last Thursday, President Bush signed into law a prohibition on posting annoying Web messages or sending annoying e-mail messages without disclosing your true identity.
In other words, it’s OK to flame someone on a mailing list or in a blog as long as you do it under your real name. Thank Congress for small favors, I guess.
This ridiculous prohibition, which would likely imperil much of Usenet, is buried in the so-called Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act. Criminal penalties include stiff fines and two years in prison.
“The use of the word ‘annoy’ is particularly problematic,” says Marv Johnson, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union. “What’s annoying to one person may not be annoying to someone else.”
I regret my vote for Bush more and more every day.
Well, look at this way, at least you can go after Paddy O’Shea or Darrell with the force of the law behind you.
careful that may be annoying.
Speaking of Republican Stupidity, how ’bout that Just Us Sunday III?
3. Hello dad, I’m in jail. Hi dad, I’m calling you from jail. Hi dad, happy birthday, I’m in jail…
Gold Star for Robot Boy
Love that song. So much, I put it on a mix CD I burned for my dad in honor of Father’s Day.
Yeah, but enough to bring yourself to vote Democrat the next go-around?
Imagine what a paradise Usenet would have remained had we had this enlightened law before the web. Ah, the memories.
A co-worker, whom I genuinely like and respect despite her lapse of judgement, is going through the same thing at an accelerating rate. By 2008, her wardrobe may consist of nothing but sackcloths and ashes.
I would like to state for the record that my real name is Sonjanyanatasha Bovinativotichblinklestein.
Now that I have that out of the way…
Here we go again.
OMG. Funniest thing I’ve seen in here in an age.
“Another ten or twenty years of this, I might vote Democratic!”
Note: This was NOT meant to annoy …
You honestly think Bush knew this was in the bill?
ppGaz- John’s totally gonna get you arrested ;-)
I honestly think that Bush should never, ever, under any circumstances and no matter what, be held accountable for anything. At all.
How the hell does one define “annoying”? I know that DougJ annoys the hell out of scs, but I find him delightful. scs annoys the hell out of ppGaz, but TallDave probably thinks she’s peachy. It’s so damned subjective…especially on forums like this. If I post something directed to Sojourner, and Darrell reads it and finds it incredibly annoying, but Sojourner doesn’t…
That’s a really stupid law.
Life, liberty, the persuit of happiness and the right not to be annoyed.
The Disenfranchised Voter
To be honest, I think the law is so stupid that it will easily be struck down as Unconstitutional because it is a violation of the First Amendment.
I’m not saying don’t hold him accountable. Obviously the President should have full knowledge of what he signs. John though seems to be suggesting that the criminilizing of intentionally making annoying and anonymous comments on the net was intended by Bush in the signing of the document. To believe that, you would have to believe Bush knew this was in the document in the first place. The act is 100s of pages long. And the section in the act that criminilizes this is really obscure at first glace
This act essentially amends the revised version of the 1934 communications act. It was revised in the 1996 telecommunications act. This is what’s being amended.
Do you honestly think Bush was aware of all of this.
Furthermore, for those worried that making intentionally annoying comments on the net anonymously is going to get you locked up, remember that making such comments through telecommunication services has already been illegal since 1996. But do you know that many people that have gone to jail for making anonymous annoying comments on the phone?
Since this law just adds “the internet” to the telecommunication devices previously stated in sec 223(a) of the Communications Act, which states
and considering that the supreme court didn’t rule that unconstitutional, i don’t see why they would rule it unconstitutional now just because they added the internet to it.
Bob In Pacifica
Does this mean the guy from Nigeria will stop bugging me about a loan to tide him over until he gets his inheritance?
Oddly, I would hope that the leader of the sole superpower would know what he is signing.
I guess I am just expect too much.
You’re making this way too hard. Those who are for Bush will be fine. Those who are against… well, we’re screwed.
Which may explain why John refuses to take a consistent position. Gotta keep one foot in the fold just in case the Feds come after him. Can’t be too careful these days.
Actually, see above… it actually says “with intent to annoy”, not just “annoy”. So, “I didn’t mean to annoy you” would actually be a valid defense, and it would have to be shown that you likely did intend to annoy the plaintiff. Or whatever. God, this is so stupid…
He gets held to account for it whether he has full knowledge or not.
[Golf clap] Well played, sir.
well, I think there is a big difference between a harassing phone call to someone and a harassing comment in a blog. Calling me at my home, making me answer the phone, and then being subjected to anonymous harrassement intrudes upon my liberties. There is no first amendment protection for that. But if you call me all kinds of name in an blog open to the general public, that doesn’t infringe on my rights in quite the same way. The phone call comes into my house directed at me. The annoying comment in a blog is posted in a place i have to go to to read.
One can’t equate the two things as being even remotely similiar and I belive the Supreme Court might also see it in the same way.
Only if the activist/liberal judges have their way.
For those affectives amongst us who find the human costs of the Kennebunkport Cowboy’s hideous Iraq war blunders difficult to comprehend (or just irrelevant), here’s an article that puts things into terms more easily digested.
Cost Of War Could Top $2 Trillion
Speaking of annoyances.
Aside from first amendment problems this appears to be unconstitutionally vague. My favorit constitutional doctrine! If you can’t tell if you are likely to be annoying someone, it it hard to know if you are violating the law. This leaves an improper amount of discretion in the hands of the prosecutor.
Shameless blogwhoring, but this is one of the very few times I’ve had something to say that was both somewhat original and not weeks after the original story broke, so here are my thoughts.
I’ve seen news.com here and there but I still don’t know them very well, so it makes me a bit suspicious that they are apparently the only source of this story so far. And what Jeff says about how this just adds the Internet to similar, existing prohibitions in other telecommunications is reassuring, but Slide’s right. A phone call is normally one-on-one, in your home, with the implication that further intrusions are possible, and anonymity is the exception rather than the rule. None of that is true of most types of online communication, so that should have been taken into account in writing this.
If we’re lucky, and at this point it does seem like the most likely explanation, this is just example #3,001 of Congressional stupidity. If we’re not lucky this is roughly halfway through the death of one thousand cuts to our freedoms. But if we’ve already gone that far, you can’t blame anyone for assuming the worst.
The Other Steve
Honestly no. But that’s because I think Bush has the intellect of an autistic jackass. But my guess is, he probably did, and he signed it quite willingly, as he is on record for saying “There ought to be limits to free speech” in response to a parody site about him from 2000.
I understand the point of the bill, and I do believe there is a legitimate need to prevent cyberstalking. However, I don’t consider what DougJ does as cyberstalking, even if he’s on Tom Maguire’s site. Yet what the bill defines as stalking is not so definitive.
The Other Steve
news.com is a tech centric news site. Pretty much non-partisan and more in favor of tech anarchy. Except when it comes to Microsoft, and then it’s kill thsoe guys and buy Apple shares. :-)
Come on, man. Take some pride in your work! This is a totally half-assed attempt at being an ignorant right-wing douchebag.
O.K. people, calm down. Orin Kerr is on the case:
Well, no. I think he was aware that there was a pen in his hand, and some paper that someone wanted him to sign, and he knew that as soon as he got that done, he could get back to jingling his keys with his eyes closed and pretending that it’s still Christmas.
You guys jumping to conclusions without all the info, should be classified as annoying. Annoying, but typical.
Enlighten us, Stormy. What vital piece of info do you have that we peons in the muck are lacking?
Stormy – I don’t think too many of us are taking this law too seriously. I can see the intent of the law – preventing cyber-stalking (which is a real and serious concern). But it’s written so broadly that it’s burstingly ripe for satire and discussion.
Annoying the hell out of you, Stormy, would be worth 30 days in county lock up.
“I regret my vote for Bush more and more every day.” – John Cole
Since so many of these topics are filled with expressions of shame for having supported Bush in 2000 and 2004, would it be possible for a thread to be created that would allow those consumed with grief over their totalitarian past (and I think it is safe to assume that outside of the resident reactionary sociopaths all former Bush supporters are now well into the recovering phase), to not only confess their regret, but also detail the reasons why?
I think it would be truly cathartic for these individuals to “let it all hang out,” as they say. And I truly believe that those who show the kind of courage it takes to make a public confession of having succumbed to the Un-American democracy-hating appeal of the Far Right will also want to explain what it is that caused them to make so disastrous a choice.
There are those among us who did not support Bush in either 2000 and 2004, and many of the things that we see happening now are not considered to be at all surprising. We knew Bush is a reactionary, we knew he would work to undermine our precious freedoms, and we knew he would attempt to use everything in his power and beyond to achieve these aims.
So how is it that Bush supporters can only see these things now?
I’m certain many are curious to find out.
You guys aren’t that annoying. LOL. You are predictable, though. If one post on some blog is made about BUSH SUCKS, before the facts are even in evidence, then the OUTRAGE must be summoned. Then when the facts do come out, it falls under the fake but accurate label. It COULD be true because Bush sucks so hard. John does this all the time, then the update usually happens after he calms down and the facts come out.
Andrew J. Lazarus
‘SOK, John. At least you don’t live in a competitive, contested state like Texas.
Once again, another fact filled Stormy post, full of quotations and instances proving her point beyond the shadow of a doubt.
Or maybe its just typical Stormy bullshit and lies.
And I can’t help but wonder what the left, knickers all atwist, would have done had Bush refused to sign, or had he vetoed the ‘Violence Against Women Act’.
Seems a damned if you do, damned if you don’t moment for appeaser Bush.
Had he shown some spine, and said that he wasn’t signing this because of this ridiculous provision, how quickly do you think the ‘anti-woman’ epithet would have been hurled, regardless of Bush’s stated reason?
And look what appeasement has won him–new accusations of intrusiveness.
I really wish the Republicans would stop trying to look even-handed in the eyes of their collegues on the left. They should know by now that no capitulation will ever be enough.
But I’m not ashaned of my vote, not while the alternative maintains it’s status as a herd of braying jackasses.
I would vote for the greater of two evils, but President Cthuhlu would eat me. So I settle for the lesser.
Nice false dichotomy jack. But then, that’s what the GOP is good at setting up. It is possible to write and pass a bill that doesn’t suck.
Please explain how this is a false dichotomy.
If Bush passes the Violence against Wonen Act, he avoids the ire of the feminists and the loud outcry from the MSM
If he doesn’t sign/vetoes it, the MSM and the feminists castigate him for being anti-woman.
Are you saying that this scenario is not valid? That Bush could veto this piece of liberal fell-goodism and have none of you scream about it? Please.
The only part of the issue that I see as not being neccesarily true is that about him avoiding the ire of the MSM and feminists. I think they’d’ve found some problem with it anyway so that they could still call him ‘anti-woman’.
I don’t think he read it closely. I think he got nailed because of it. I think Republicans do this all the time. And I can’t stand when they do it.
It is possible to write and pass a bill that doesn’t suck. But not for Bush. If he passes one I like–you’ll say it sucks. Hell, I expect that if he passed something that met all the lefts criteria for a perfect bill a good chunk of them would insist that the bill sucked anyway, simply because Bush was the signer.
The man should realize this simple fact and act accordingly. But he won’t.
And still I have no qualms about voting for him and keeping that idiot, Kerry, out of office.
Vaguely OT…but if you thought today’s free speech in America is fraught with danger…get a load of this:
Maybe if Republican’s hadn’t added this piece off offal to the original bill, jackie.
Send it back with the express provision that you will pass it when they remove the civil liberty threats from its contents. Its not too difficult.
Exactly. Who wrote the bill in the first place? And why was it necessary to bury that bit in there, especially as it is so poorly worded? We’re not just annoyed with Bush for signing it, we’re annoyed for the boneheads that mucked up the writing of the bill in the first place.
Because that bit in the bill is so vague, and so laughably hard to objectively determine, it only serves to undermine the actual stated purpose of the bill, which is to help prosecute cyberstalking. As is, it leaves too much open to interpretation. So if someone is truly being stalked and harrassed via email, or via a web to which they have to go (for school or work purposes), the door is now open to a semantics debate about what constitues “annoying”, and the victim can now be easily portrayed as oversensitive or easily annoyed.
website, that is.
All right, Paddy, I’ll fess up, and try to be as honest as I can explaining why I voted Bush both times, and why I have swung hard left, teetering damn near that lip of centrism over to what one calls a “liberal”.
If I remember right, it was the convergence of the new Fox News Channel, pervasive right wing talk radio, and the corruption of the Clinton administration amped up by both of those sources. Previous to my conversion to full-out wingnut I felt like something of a right leaning libertarian, which now that I think about it was insulting to Libertarians because I couldn’t bring myself to be as anarchistic and trusting of my fellow man to act as right as they should. I feel that we are simply not provincial enough anymore to be “libertarian”. Like De Tocqueville said-liberty decreases with the size of the republic in question. But I learned to despise “liberals”, whatever the case-I hated Blame America First. I hated Bill Clinton making America look stupid. And I thought Al Gore was a cipher that wanted to ride on Slick Willy’s coattails.
So I voted Bush-and when Sept 11 came around, I felt the sadness and the desire for revenge like we all did-and I think I expected Bush to assuage both of these feelings and he tapped into that kneejerk reaction to vengeance quite well in those early days after September 11th. I went with every justification and defended every initiative with zeal, never once critically examining any of it but using the readymade logic and selective facts that made it all seem like the right thing to do, be it tax cuts(for whomever)or the Iraq invasion. I gleefully watched Kerry’s political swiftboat sink like a stone under what now certainly looks to me like a brilliantly orchestrated character assassination that left the victim stupefied and without a chance to untar himself(which Im sure even you all give Rove credit for).
For a while it felt good to be a Republican. Righteous smiting of the enemy was being done, and a noble strategy of regional transformation was beginning to unfold, and it truly sounded like a panacea for what ailed the Middle East. I went to Iraq in 2003 and I saw us doing some very good things-I shut out a few sights too while I supported the occupation, the dangerous demonstrations and the blackened, firebombed city that I rolled thru. I was optimistic about the outcome, even confident.
Bush’d domestic fuckups did it for me. I lost faith after Miers and Plame, and I began poking into blogs that were previously anathema to my way of thinking, having a faint inkling that the opposition just might be right this time. The constant bombings and killings in Iraq began to leap off the news page, replacing the phony/false metrics of success we were all being spoon-fed. Over a period of time I realized that not every liberal is a hyperventilating, America-bashing socialist. In fact, most aren’t. There is a weirdo fringe, but that cuts both ways. I am trying to remain as open minded as possible and take in as much of both arguments as possible, and generally reserving judgment until a rational consensus swings to one side or the other-mainly because I feel I am grossly underinformed, and have just ended a period where I was merely misinformed.
In short, Paddy, I was a believer. And you can’t tell a believer shit until he’s a nonbeliever anymore. I was consistently credulous and therefore manipulated right on down the line.
I hope my rambling helps a little bit. Thanks for letting me share.
Oh, and I’m sorry. I’m sorry I gave a pass to character assassination. I’m sorry I voted for a myopic foreign policy. I’m sorry I supported utterly misguided tax cuts with absurd deficit spending atop it.. Im sorry I voted for a man who brought only more death and destruction to an already ravaged people because he and his staff couldnt be troubled to plan ahead or at least find out just who would rush into the power vaccuum and weigh the risks accordingly. I’m sorry I voted for not just cronyism, but incompetent cronyism. I could go on, but you get the idea. I failed to do my due diligence and I am sorry to all of you.
RonB – That was very eloquent. And you know what? Bush and his cronies are master politicians – make no mistake. They’ve convinced many, and there are a lot of people who adore him simply because they say that they know where he stands and that he has strong convictions, even though many (myself included) feel that his stances and convictions are wrong-headed, arrogant and dangerous. Kudos to you for thinking critically and for being willing to examine both sides of issues.
First off, Lines, it’s Jack–not ‘jackie’.
Second ‘Republican’ is a more accurate way of referring to Arlen Specter, the idiot who sponsored this stupidity–and when you name the other sponsors of this craptabulous idea, Joe Biden, Teddy Kennedy, and Patrick Leahy, you might weant to question even those scare quotes and just resign yourself to writing ‘democrat’.
While you’re all so busy yelling at Bush for signing this thing, save some time for the people whose idea it actually is, Specter, Biden, Kennedy and Leahy.
And then ask yourself what these four prominent libs had in mind when they were writing it.
I don’t quite recall this line of thinking creeping into anything I ever said…of course, Im sure I’ve said Democrats have no ideas more than once…and perhaps said twice as many times as that “better warm shit than cold shit”. At least he’s doing something, I guess I thought a bit of the time…which is lazy thinking at best, as is the sentiment of “having strong convictions” being a good reason to support anyone…Ted Kaczynski had “strong convictions too, for example.
And where did you find out that Kennedy, Biden and Leahy had anything to do with Sec 113, jackie? So far the only name I have found reported with it is from Arlen Spectre, a Republican (despite your assertion to the contrary, Spectre is a Republican, just moderate).
I read the bill.
Here’s the actual text of what Specter added–
(a) In General- Paragraph (1) of section 223(h) of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 223(h)(1)) is amended–
(1) in subparagraph (A), by striking `and’ at the end;
(2) in subparagraph (B), by striking the period at the end and inserting `; and’; and
(3) by adding at the end the following new subparagraph:
`(C) in the case of subparagraph (C) of subsection (a)(1), includes any device or software that can be used to originate telecommunications or other types of communications that are transmitted, in whole or in part, by the Internet (as such term is defined in section 1104 of the Internet Tax Freedom Act (47 U.S.C. 151 note)).’.
(b) Rule of Construction- This section and the amendment made by this section may not be construed to affect the meaning given the term `telecommunications device’ in section 223(h)(1) of the Communications Act of 1934, as in effect before the date of the enactment of this section.
The rapidity with which this molehill was raised to a mountain surely set a new landspeed record, and all due to a misreading the statute. Attached as a rider to a bill styled as the “Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act”, the provision extends telephone harassment law to apply to email.
47 U.S.C. § 223, provides:
(a) Prohibited acts generally
(1) in interstate or foreign communications—
(A) by means of a telecommunications device knowingly—
(i) makes, creates, or solicits, and
(ii) initiates the transmission of, any comment, request, suggestion, proposal, image, or other communication which is obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, or indecent, with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass another person;
(B) by means of a telecommunications device knowingly—
(i) makes, creates, or solicits, and
(ii) initiates the transmission of, any comment, request, suggestion, proposal, image, or other communication which is obscene or indecent, knowing that the recipient of the communication is under 18 years of age, regardless of whether the maker of such communication placed the call or initiated the communication;
(C) makes a telephone call or utilizes a telecommunications device, whether or not conversation or communication ensues, without disclosing his identity and with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass any person at the called number or who receives the communications;
(D) makes or causes the telephone of another repeatedly or continuously to ring, with intent to harass any person at the called number; or
(E) makes repeated telephone calls or repeatedly initiates communication with a telecommunications device, during which conversation or communication ensues, solely to harassany person at the called number or who receives the communication; or
(2) knowingly permits any telecommunications facility under his control to be used for any activity prohibited by paragraph (1) with the intent that it be used for such activity, shall be fined under title 18 or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.
Notice that the rider alters (a)(1)(C). Each capital letter is a different crime. A prohibits sending obscene messages/making obscene calls with the intent to harass others. B prohibits knowingly sending obscene messages to someone one knows to be a minor. C (as amended) prohibits anonymous, intentional harassment. D & E are fairly straightforward prohibitions on specific harassing behaviours.
This law is not exactly a model of legislative construction, so it’s harder than it ought to be to make sense out of it. But the word “intent” is crucial here. It does not act as a sweeping prohibition on being annoying and anonymous (which would be patently unconstitutional) but, rather, to address a particular mental state: the intent to harass. Such harassment was already illegal when done by telephone. This rider extends that to email – nothing more, nothing less.
Perhaps one needs to have taken Criminal Law in law school to appreciate how important these mens rea (mental state) requirements are. Suffice it to say, where a law states that something is a crime only if done “knowingly” and/or “intentionally”, that is not a trivial matter. Proving intent is the hard part.
50 posts later and I finally notice the Was/Not Was line.
“I like it here! Its nice! Im gonna stay here!”
Ron B: Sorry I didn’t answer post an your incredible post sooner. I’d like to make excuses, but the truth is I just couldn’t stop crying.
It…it….was so goddamn fucking ….beautiful.
I am so humbled.
Re: the Was/Not Was line, you’re entirely welcome. :)
Re: your apology for voting for Bush both times — accepted, and nicely done. I voted for Kerry once, and no one before that (couldn’t even vote for Nader in NC…), and I still feel bad about not voting against Bush, even though I had no idea what a horrible job he’d do at the time. (I didn’t really turn against him until late 2002 or so, in the run-up to the Iraq debacle)
Oh, and have you ever read advisorjim’s posts over on Daily Kos? Great insights from a rehabilitated former wingnut, I suggest you start at the beginning (or so).
Pb, thanks. That advisorjim stuff oughta keep me busy for a while. While never much of a dittohead( my preferences went toward Michael Medved, Tony Snow, and Laura Ingraham…the little guys and gals), the narrative is similar to mine-getting all of our arguments and outrages from a narrow set of sources who are just as misfocused as we are/were.