Capdiamont\’s Weblog


Will Humboldt Herald be forced to close?
Tuesday 5 May 2009, 09:06
Filed under: Electronics and Computers

Due to causing substantial emotional distress through “severe, repeated, and hostile” speech?’

At least that is the fear that a new bill by Rep. Sanchez and colleagues want to pass. Who will determine that is classified as what by this bill? Probably won’t survive court challenge. Bill’s name, is The Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act

Thanks /. for the via.

Text, and blogging examples from The Volokh Conspiracy

Whoever transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication, with the intent to coerce, intimidate, harass, or cause substantial emotional distress to a person, using electronic means to support severe, repeated, and hostile behavior, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both….

[“Communication”] means the electronic transmission, between or among points specified by the user, of information of the user’s choosing, without change in the form or content of the information as sent and received; …

[“Electronic means”] means any equipment dependent on electrical power to access an information service, including email, instant messaging, blogs, websites, telephones, and text messages.

1. I try to coerce a politician into voting a particular way, by repeatedly blogging (using a hostile tone) about what a hypocrite / campaign promise breaker / fool / etc. he would be if he voted the other way. I am transmitting in interstate commerce a communication with the intent to coerce using electronic means (a blog) “to support severe, repeated, and hostile behavior” — unless, of course, my statements aren’t seen as “severe,” a term that is entirely undefined and unclear. Result: I am a felon, unless somehow my “behavior” isn’t “severe.”

2. A newspaper reporter or editorialist tries to do the same, in columns that are posted on the newspaper’s Web site. Result: Felony, unless somehow my “behavior” isn’t severe.

3. The politician votes the wrong way. I think that’s an evil, tyrannical vote, so I repeatedly and harshly condemn the politician on my blog, hoping that he’ll get very upset (and rightly so, since I think he deserves to feel ashamed of himself, and loathed by others). I am transmitting a communication with the the intent to cause substantial emotional distress, using electronic means (a blog) “to support severe, repeated, and hostile behavior.” (I might also be said to be intending to “harass” — who knows, given how vague the term is? — but the result is the same even if we set that aside.) Result: I am a felon, subject to the usual utter uncertainty about what “severe” means.

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