Trolling is illegal...In Arizona

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Created: 2012-07-04 19:10:21
cracksmell91
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reply date: 2012-07-04 19:10:21 last edited on: 2012-07-04 19:19:10


Trolling could get you 25 years in jail.


One of the Internet's basic tenets—the right to be as much of a myopic, infantile asshat as humanly possible—is currently under attack in Arizona. A sweeping update to the state's telecommunications harrasment bill could make naughty, angry words a Class 1 misdemeanor. Or worse.

It's a dangerous precedent, yet another bill written and supported by legislators who fundamentally don't understand the nature of the internet. And I'm not just being a, well, you know.
Arizona House Bill 2549 passed both legislative houses last Thursday and is now awaiting approval from Arizona's governor Brewer. The statute states that:

"It is unlawful for any person, with intent to terrify, intimidate, threaten, harass, annoy or offend, to use a 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."

Emphasis added. If the electronic devices and means are employed to stalk a victim, the penalty bumps up to a Class 3 felony.

For those not intimately familiar with Arizona penal law, a Class 1 misdemeanor is punishable by a $2,500 fine and up to six months in jail (it's the most aggressive misdemeanor charge the state can bring). A Class 3 felony, meanwhile, carries a minimum sentence of 2.5 years for non-dangerous offenders with no prior record. And a max of 25 years in jail.

Opponents of the bill argue that the wording is overly broad and could easily be interpreted to include not just one-on-one communications but public forums like 4Chan, Reddit, and anywhere else that allows commenting. You thought the banhammer was bad? Try handcuffs.

It could also have a chilling effect on free speech by prohibiting shocking or "profane" language online. And since the bill stipulates that the offense only has to occur on Arizona soil (since a Facebook comment is definitely a geographic place, right?) that basically puts the entire Internet on notice.

The bill's supporters argue that the steps are necessary to prevent online bullying. Despite the public outcry, the bill has seen very little resistance from elected officials. However, given how well Arizona's other recent, short-lived, and generally draconian propositions—-including its racial profiling, anti-gay adoption, and anti-immigration bills—-have fared, House Bill 2549 might not be a law for long, assuming Governor Brewer even signs it.
Come to the dark side, they said. We have cookies, they said. All lies!
WhoWantsPies
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reply date: 2012-07-05 11:01:05


Wow.
I want absolutely nothing to do with this country anymore.
earplug115
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reply date: 2012-07-05 20:06:07 last edited on: 2012-07-05 20:06:32


Wow.
I want absolutely nothing to do with this country anymore.WhoWantsPies


I'm with you
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DarkSaber
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reply date: 2012-07-05 20:27:19


This is just sad xD
agm1992
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reply date: 2012-07-05 22:14:17


anti-gay adoption bill

Seriously? What is wrong with these people!
jimfish
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reply date: 2012-07-06 04:05:45


What that article doesn't tell you is that HB-2549 is simply an update to Title 13, 2923 of Arizona's Statute definitions - in this case, Stalking; classification; definitions, and an update to Title 13, 2916, which is the legislation on Use of telephone to terrify, intimidate, threaten, harass, annoy or offend; classification. The only real change is swapping out the word 'telephone' with "electronic devices."

How does the bill define "stalking"?

A person commits stalking if the person intentionally or knowingly engages in a course of conduct that is directed toward another person and if that conduct either:

1. Would cause a reasonable person to fear for the person's safety or the safety of that person's immediate family member and that person in fact fears for the person's safety or the safety of that person's immediate family member.

2. Would cause a reasonable person to fear death of that person or that person's immediate family member and that person in fact fears death of that person or that person's immediate family member.


The first would net somebody a Class 5 felony, and the second a Class 3 felony. A non-dangerous Class 5 felon, with no priors, would serve a maximum of 2 years, or a minimum of 9 months. Remember, that's if it comes to jail. You've still got probation and mitigated circumstances. The maximum that a Class 3 felony could net a non-dangerous individual, with no priors, would be 7 years imprisonment, not 25 years. 25 years is the maximum for dangerous felons, with at least two prior convictions, or a non-dangerous convict with at least two prior convictions, depending on the circumstances. The article writer probably hoped you wouldn't check on that.

"Course of conduct" is defined as any of the following:

(i) Maintaining visual or physical proximity to a specific person or directing verbal, written or other threats, whether express or implied, to a specific person on two or more occasions over a period of time, however short.

(ii) Using any electronic, digital or global positioning system device to surveil a specific person or a specific person's internet or wireless activity continuously for twelve hours or more or on two or more occasions over a period of time, however short.


So, whilst I'm not particularly in favour of Internet legislation, the people who cry that the sky is falling need to calm down. "Maximum of 25 years for trolling" is a distortion on the part of the article writer, or a flat-out lie at worst. The House Bill doesn't even use the word "trolling" - it's explicitly towards stalking and threatening an individual's life, not going onto a sci-fi forum and starting a "Who would win in a fight? Darth Vader or Captain Kirk?" thread and watch as the Trekkies and Star Wars geeks tear themselves apart. You won't be getting 25 years in prison for that anymore than a crank phone caller will be sentenced to death row for calling their local bar asking for Amanda Hugenkiss.

tl;dr - exaggerations and panic don't help political discourse.
jimfish
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reply date: 2012-07-06 04:25:20 last edited on: 2012-07-06 05:33:37


Oh, and I actually forgot to mention the most important part, the bit about the use of any obscene, lewd or profane language, etc? The one where the article writer claims is a Class 3 felony? It's not.

It's a Class 1 misdemeanor, which in Arizona, is a maximum of 6 months in jail.

Oops.

Edit: The article did say it was a misdemeanor. My bad. I should clarify that I was objecting to the writer's interpretation of the harassment section, which read:

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. It is also unlawful to otherwise disturb by repeated anonymous electronic or digital communications the peace, quiet or right of privacy of any person at the place where the communications were received.
hgm1998
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reply date: 2012-07-07 03:37:17


looks like arizona can't take a joke!
jimfish
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reply date: 2012-07-07 07:17:08 last edited on: 2012-07-07 07:30:35


If anything, the update to the legislation only goes to show how behind the times Arizona really is. The State of Vermont already introduced the changes to their telephone harrassment statute years ago. Under Vermont law, Title 13, Chapter 9, Section 1027, making "harassing, annoying" contact with somebody via any form of "electronic communication" is punishable for up to three months imprisonment. If the person has a prior conviction, that's bumped up to six months. Same as Arizona's proposed changes.

I didn't hear any internet outrage about Vermont, and I certainly haven't heard of any Vermonter being hauled off to the slammer for trolling.

California updated their Penal Code back in 1999(!) to include the phrasing: "Every person who, with intent to annoy, telephones or makes contact by means of an electronic communication device with another and addresses to or about the other person any obscene language or addresses to the other person any threat to inflict injury to the person or property of the person addressed or any member of his or her family, is guilty of a misdemeanor."

The code goes on to say "Any offense committed by use of an electronic communication device or medium, including the Internet, may be deemed to have been committed when the electronic communication or communications were originally sent or first viewed by the recipient."

So, again, those who believe the sky is falling, and the jackbooted internet police are coming - this is woefully overdue legislation that has been in place in other states for over 13 years.
EvolutionaryMishap
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reply date: 2012-07-08 23:34:34


I'll make sure never to go to arizona now
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