Online Provocations Outlawed
After demonstrating its usefulness last year in probes regarding steroid usage among baseball players, the federal government has further showed its significance in shaping societal mores by passing a law that makes annoying someone on the Web without properly identifying yourself a crime. Here are the germane parts of the recently approved “Preventing Cyberstalking” clause:
“Whoever…utilizes 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… without disclosing his identity and with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass any person…who receives the communications…shall be fined under title 18 or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.”
Wow. I mean, I’ve come to expect pandering, ineffectual frivolities from our “leaders,” but this is really too much. They’ve taken what might have been an OK law—one that protected people from credible, precarious threats in cyberspace—and turned it into grounds to lock up people who communicate even slightly anonymously over the Internet (Who hasn’t done that before?) for a couple of years if they just get under someone’s skin a little. Way to go, geniuses!
Not surprisingly, “Preventing Cyberstalking” was a “rider” on a colossal bill called the “Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act,” meaning it was an extraneous law stuck into a larger piece of legislation that would in all likelihood get passed. This is standard practice, and all kinds of bizarre and unsuitable laws get passed because of it. For example, an $82 billion emergency supplemental appropriations bill last year, which was ostensibly to help fund tsunami disaster relief efforts and the ongoing war effort in Iraq, included a $76 million allotment to build a new airport in Kuwait, one of the wealthiest per-capita countries in the world.
If you agree or disagree with me on this, let me know about it at firstname.lastname@example.org, but if it’s going to be flames, make sure to use your real name! (Just kidding.) Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go find some discussion board for a little civil disobedience.