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Arizona Internet Users Outraged Over Internet Censorship Bill

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By Katerina Azarova

Does this article – or maybe just the headline – annoy, offend or terrify you? If so, it may soon be illegal in Arizona.

­The state’s legislature has passed a bill which would update an existing telephone harassment law to apply to the Internet and other forms of electronic communication. The problem, though, is that it dramatically broadens the scope, making it potentially criminal to even marginally offend someone when they aren’t even the target of the “offensive” communication.

As outlined by the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, “the bill is sweepingly broad, and would make it a crime to communicate – via any electronic means – speech that is intended to ‘annoy,’ ‘offend,’ ‘harass’ or ‘terrify,’ as well as certain sexual speech. Because the bill is not limited to one-to-one communications, House Bill 2549 would apply to the Internet as a whole, thus criminalizing all manner of writing, cartoons, and other protected material the state finds offensive or annoying.”

The lawmakers’ concern is quite understandable: more and more stories of cyber bullying appear every day, and racially, sexually and morally offensive comments and interactions are, sadly, a frequent sight on the web.

But in their rush to protect Arizona citizens from harm, legislators seem to have forgotten one key thing: to define all those terms that they are trying to deem punishable.

Words like ‘lewd’ or ‘profane’ are not defined by statute, or in reference. Most people understand ‘lewd’ to mean of a lusty or sexual nature, and ‘profane’ is disrespectful of religious beliefs and practices. And how does one define ‘annoying,’ when it’s so individual?

Section one of this law is so vague, in fact, that a person could be prosecuted because a friend of a friend of a friend found a Facebook post offensive. Which is ridiculous, as I, for example, get annoyed by my friends posting carefree vacation updates while I’m stuck behind a desk at work. And I get terrified by people posting pictures of the sphynx, the hairless cats which everyone colloquially refers to as naked. (Speaking of which, if they are ‘naked’ and someone posts their pictures, does that constitute lewd online conduct?)

I’m also pretty sure we all know people who would be offended by religious discourse of the ‘is there a God?’ variety. I’m offended by the fact there are people who get offended by that. Are we all prosecutable, then? Is this is? Sit down, log off and shut up, Arizona?

What’s even scarier is that this law could criminalize satire. Sorry, Jon Stewart – the “best f#@cking news team ever” is not welcome in the Copper State. You probably won’t even be able to play off the double-entendre of the state’s nickname, because the coppers will get you.

Right now, the only thing standing in this bill’s way is the governor’s signature. The Media Coalition, a group dedicated to defending the First Amendment, wrote an open letter to Gov. Jan Brewer asking her to veto the bill.

“Speech protected by the First Amendment is often intended to offend, annoy or scare but could be prosecuted under this law. A Danish newspaper posted pictures of Muhammad that were intended to be offensive to make a point about religious tolerance. If a Muslim in Arizona considers the images profane and is offended, the paper could be prosecuted. Some Arizona residents may consider Rush Limbaugh’s recent comments about a Georgetown law student lewd. He could be prosecuted if he intended his comments to be offensive. Similarly, much general content available in the media uses racy or profane language and is intended to offend, annoy or even terrify.

Bill Maher’s stand up routines and Jon Stewart’s nightly comedy program, Ann Coulter’s books criticizing liberals and Christopher Hitchens’ expressions of his disdain for religion, Stephen King’s novels or the Halloween films all could be subject to this legislation. Even common taunting about sports between rival fans done online is frequently meant to offend or annoy, and is often done using salty and profane language.”

Of course, Governor Brewer could find this offensive, and sign the bill to protect herself. But she will then also have to explain to Arizona Senator and former GOP presidential candidate John McCain why his daughter is being prosecuted for saying she loves “men and sex” in a magazine interview. I’m sure someone somewhere in Arizona found that lewd. Or possibly even offensive.


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One thought on “Arizona Internet Users Outraged Over Internet Censorship Bill

  • April 1, 2012 at 2:17 pm
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    While everyone else in the uS is busy with their assortment of chaotic judicial acts…far from anything warranted as coming from the original set of ten Bills of Rights…Tennessee is going to allow the display of the ten commandments displayed on public building…something that the Texans…the Bush family restricted to only their home state during George W Bush’s term as whatever you may define he actually was.Kentucky could not even get to the supreme court’s opinion and result anything favorable.
    Today… rumors are surfacing all over the world that there is trouble upon this American continent that will definitely end in a nuclear war…and due to Obama’s economic policies with both England and Argentina.
    Denial of what laws of physics actually are, but employed as weapon, will never get the uS one lasting thing.Especially a seat as a government that was sovereign or for religion.
    Like I have posted in the past…the use of politics was restricted to education for how not to govern 1000’s of years ago. The uS took much from the Kingdom of On where Joseph and Aseneth were as one…in marriage.That’s King David’s and King Solomon’s family.
    What the uS did , was copy their Greek/Egyptian/Jewish type court system and along with what was in Rome began a government in 1776.
    It’s similar to what Russia found would have happened in the Lost City of the Jews near them…a ‘melting pot’ of different races and personalities…plus education.
    truth is there is no privileges or immunity in the uS when it comes to consent or privacy…especially when the uS practices taking it electronically from your ears…then changing it into a defense spending plan… earning a patent.
    That goes for online or simply having a conversation with your neighbor.
    Again…money appears to be among the items that blind men tot he point you witness the actual events taking place every minute in the uS…but end in non acknowledgment by the politicians.
    Everyone should smile anyway…and read a good book exampled by the Book of Thomas.

    Reply

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