Trolling Soon to be Illegal



Trolling Will Soon Be Illegal in Arizona

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 $250,000 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.

In the mean time, feel free to leave your thoughts on the matter on Brewer's Facebook page. You know, while it's still legal. [Arizona State House of Reps via CBLDF]


People have the right to be as much of an ass online as they are offline.


Staff member
hellrasinbrasin said:
One of the Internet's basic tenets—the right to be as much of a myopic, infantile asshat as humanly possible—
Stopped reading here :ganishka:


My posts are better.
That is pretty funny coming from the state embodiment of trolling, but yeah, the wording is too broad (you can't "annoy" someone =) and it otherwise takes a crap all over the 1st amendment, but again, it's Arizona. I actually think this bill would help trolling though, by taking it to another level. Imagine someone filing a "trolling" criminal complaint against someone in a flame war, basically as the ultimate troll. If it became common enough, people wouldn't just be trolling each other, but the entire system! It'd be like descriptions of transcendent basketball harmony, where both teams get in such a good rythm, even with the opposing team, that they cease playing against each other so much as mutually participating in the execution of perfect basketball at both ends. Well, maybe not that harmonious =)


Th3Branded0ne said:
So, I"m screwed if I ever want to troll here in Phoenix. :femto:
So if we don't here from you again once this bill becomes law I guess the community here
can cover segments of your 250.000 dollar bail.
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