When Is Annoyance A Crime?
Published on January 9, 2006 By Larry Kuperman In Internet
Last Thursday, President Bush signed into law H.R.3402, the Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act of 2005. Among other sections is "a prohibition on posting annoying Web messages or sending annoying e-mail messages without disclosing your true identity."

A number of journalists, including Declan McCullagh of CNET see this as threatening free speech. Mr. McCullagh went so far as to say "This ridiculous prohibition, would likely imperil much of Usenet." I don't see it that way.

First of all, Mr. McCullagh extracts the sentence from its context, which is cyber-stalking. Cyber-stalking is defined as elsewhere as having malicious intent. This section merely expands the definition to include anonymous web-posts and emails where one party hides their identity. If, for example, a man is prevented by court order from contacting his ex-spouse in person or by phone, he can no longer hide behind an anonymous email identity to continue harassment. If it is a crime off the internet, it should also be a crime ON the internet. Makes sense, no?

The ACLU chimed in ""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."

Right and it is up to a court to determine if an individual has crossed the line over to illegal harassment. I hate getting electronic greeting cards that propmt me to go to a site to see the card, but no court in the land would rule that a criminal offense....unless a person sent me 500 in one day just to harass me.

Other forms of annoyance have been prohibited for years. A debt collector can't call someone before 9 AM or after 9 PM, or make repeated calls when asked to stop.

Here is the wording of the act: "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."

Tell me, do you feel threatened by that?

Comments
on Jan 09, 2006

The Telecommunications Act has ALWAYS restricted what can and cannot be transmitted.

It is an offence to communicate/transmit language classified as 'obscene'....in other words...telling someone over the phone to "eff off" not only breaches what is considered to be polite manners...it is also an offence punishable via Federal Law [in Oz, ergo UK and most likely US].

The Internet uses telephone systems/infrastructure so it too falls under the Telecom Act jurisdiction.

However, as with 'private' telephone conversations it is neither 'cared about' nor enforced.  Public broadcast, however is 'cared about'....and much of the Internet IS 'public broadcast' so can be of concern to those who wield the 'big sticks'...

on Jan 09, 2006
I hope I get a nice cell.
on Jan 10, 2006
They only come in one flavor, Mason.

Posted via WinCustomize Browser/Stardock Central
on Jan 10, 2006
with intent to


those 3 little words have been verry verry good to me
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