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Crank Blogging, Like Phone Calling, Now Illegal 666

Posted by jamie
from the do-people-get-prosecuted-for-this? dept.
On Thursday, President Bush signed into law a must-pass DoJ appropriations bill which contained a little gotcha for the internet. For decades, making anonymous abusive phone calls has been a federal crime, good for up to two years behind bars -- and the term "abusive" has included threats, harassment, and the much weaker "intent to annoy." Now, that telecommunications law has been extended to include the Internet, so when you post an anonymous troll to wind up your least-favorite blogger, you may break the law. This is silly: the law needs to start taking into account the qualitative differences between things like telephones, email inboxes, blogs, and IM accounts. A 3 AM phone call is different from a post to blogger.com calling me a jerk. I don't need federal protection from that Night Elf who keeps /chickening my Orc.
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Crank Blogging, Like Phone Calling, Now Illegal

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  • So wait... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by grasshoppa (657393) <skennedy@tpno[ ].org ['-co' in gap]> on Monday January 09, 2006 @01:02PM (#14428334) Homepage
    ...does that mean when you get a -1 Flamebait on slashdot, the authorities are dispatched?
    • by ihatewinXP (638000) on Monday January 09, 2006 @01:04PM (#14428365)
      Give me some mod points and we can find out!

    • by IcyNeko (891749)
      I wonder if this can also be extended to address the annoying sexbots that post messages to my Yahoo Messenger...
    • by Snap E Tom (128447) on Monday January 09, 2006 @01:07PM (#14428397)
      Yes. Coming soon, the mod option will be "-1, Jail."
      • by Surt (22457) on Monday January 09, 2006 @01:34PM (#14428661) Homepage Journal
        Well of course it won't be direct to jail, there will have to be a trial to determine if you are actually guilty, unless the executive branch has some sort of magical power to just throw people into jails without due process.

        • Re:So wait... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by loginx (586174) <xavier@wTOKYOuug.org minus city> on Monday January 09, 2006 @03:07PM (#14429557) Homepage
          "there will have to be a trial to determine if you are actually guilty"

          You mean a trial to determine that you are actually guilty...
        • by Spudley (171066) on Monday January 09, 2006 @03:22PM (#14429697) Homepage Journal
          Well of course it won't be direct to jail...

          No... but you still won't get your $200 for passing Go.
      • For every -1 Flamebait that appears on Slashdot we should all file a federal lawsuit that must be investigated and tried. Sometimes you just have to prove that something is too stupid to be in the rule book. We'll see how long the justice system can withsatnd a very stupid law that can be invoked by the average citizen. Any takers on a template complaint form to save lawyer fees? :D

        And just for clarification, I'm all for protection agains harrassment, but a law against making an anonymous message that annoys someone is ridiculous.
      • by StikyPad (445176)
        Not to be confused with +1, Jailbait.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 09, 2006 @01:19PM (#14428537)
      ^------- by Anonymous Coward, Ha!

      Does this mean that we, in the rest of the world, can lay into you guys in the US and there's nothing you can do about it (anonymously)?

      I will taunt you a second time!!!

      Ha! Your country is really small and you all smell of pooh!

    • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Monday January 09, 2006 @02:55PM (#14429457) Journal
      If you read the article it is only if you hide your identity. It is an intresting move. It could be seen as part of the move to a trusted internet.

      Currently the internet is not trusted. I don't really know who you are and you don't know who I am and we can pester each other without really being able to do anything about it.

      Total open internet doesn't work. That is clear from slashdot alone else why would we have moderation and bans? If you ever run a website you will quickly learn that you will need to secure your site from many attacks.

      There is something about being anonymous that can bring out the worst in people and with the internet it doesn't matter how small a group it is, they still number in the millions because of the global reach. Or put another way I don't need to worry about some kid from Japan gatecrashing my Dutch LUG. That same kid however can easily try attacking the website and I can't grab him by the throath and show what happens to little punks.

      So lets move to a totally un-anonymous internet where who you are is known. Post a troll on slashdot and be assured someone from your hometown will come by and teach you a lesson.

      Nice idea no? No. Because for all the trolls and flamers and idiots and time wasters there are also those people who contribute stuff they can get in trouble for but we would really like to know. Oh they ain't many, every slashdot story has trolls versus only a handfull that have inside information BUT some people find that the trolls are worth it.

      And yet should that mean anyone can do anything they want and not have to fear being punished for it? Saying that people should be able to harras, threathen or even annoy while hiding behind anonymity is al very good until you are at the receiving end.

      I happen to know one of the people who claims to be one of the gnaa members. Yes he is as sad in real live as well but that is not the real funny thing. He sometimes gets "attacked" himself and then bitterly complains about how people are costing him bandwidth from a DOS (yeah a DOS not even a DDOS). A lot of people are for freedom but only if it is them being free, the moment someone else uses freedom against them it is time to get the law involved.

      Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

      This says you are free to speak. Strictly speaking it does not say you do not have to face consequences of what you say. (Shouting fire in a crowded theather example) It certainly does not say you have the right do speak anonymous. The amendment was clearly not written by lawyers. Not good ones anyway.

      Of course it also was written a long time ago when if you wanted to say something you had to either own a press or stand up in front of your audience. The tech to speak from another continent without ever having to show yourselve was unheard perhaps even undreamed of.

      This law has a lot of nasty possibilities but as someone who has had to clean to many websites after a visit by a person with the intent to annoy I am torn in two. The majority of me knows this is going to lead to trouble and the other part of me has a list of IP's in his firewall that he would loved to have traced by the feds and their users put in a wooden chair with leather straps and a link to another kind of net.

      Should at least make for some intresting bash.org posts when someone convinces an annoying kid they are about to be arrested for talking in caps.

      • by moonbender (547943) <moonbender@@@gmail...com> on Monday January 09, 2006 @03:59PM (#14430028)
        Total open internet doesn't work. That is clear from slashdot alone else why would we have moderation and bans?

        No, Slashdot is not an example why open internet doesn't work. It's the opposite, it's one of many working models which facilitate a community despite and because of the near-to anonymity. Moderation in particular is a great way to deal with a lot of crap that people post when they don't need to fear real world retribution.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    President Bush sucks

    -Sue Me.
    • by Urusai (865560) on Monday January 09, 2006 @02:12PM (#14429034)
      where at least I know I'm free.
  • by JeanBaptiste (537955) on Monday January 09, 2006 @01:02PM (#14428341)
    My co-worker Steve is a real jerk.
  • by dada21 (163177) * <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Monday January 09, 2006 @01:02PM (#14428343) Homepage Journal
    Actually, I think the entire law against crank calling is pretty worthless now, anyway.

    We have Caller ID -- we can refuse to answer the phone. If crank calls were a major concern, you'd see market solutions to the problem. Companies would come up with "quiet time" phone features that would prevent any ring after a certain hour unless you coded it with numbers that were acceptable.

    As you can see with this law, and thousands of other bad laws, you enter into a slippery slope of stupidity.

    The Department of Justice is completely out of control -- nearly 99% of the Department is unconstitutional and unnecessary at the federal level. In this end, this is an abridgement on the freedom of speech. Every time government wants to penalize "edgy" speech, they are just finding another way to control normal speech.

    I think we know who the real cranks are in this case -- read the entire law/budget, you'll find more bad things than usual. In fact, I can't see anything in the budget that seems worthwhile anymore.
    • by Evil Adrian (253301) on Monday January 09, 2006 @01:15PM (#14428495) Homepage
      Caller ID is not free, it is an optional pay service on most carriers, and not everyone has it, so not everyone can just sit there and screen the calls.

      That aside, if someone doesn't answer the call (because they know who is calling via Caller ID), what is to stop that person from calling 300 times consecutively in an attempt to annoy/harass them?

      I guess you could block the caller... but that too incurs a fee.

      "As you can see with this law, and thousands of other bad laws, you enter into a slippery slope of stupidity."

      I don't think it's out of line for the government to outlaw harassment. You could certainly argue that this law in particular perhaps goes too far, but you're almost saying it's OK to harass people, until some company invents technology that you can purchase to stop harassment. That is just plain silly.
      • by dada21 (163177) * <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Monday January 09, 2006 @01:22PM (#14428564) Homepage Journal
        Caller ID is not free, it is an optional pay service on most carriers, and not everyone has it, so not everyone can just sit there and screen the calls.

        Government is not free and in fact costs way more than competitive services.

        Government is not optional, so those of us who pick another option still have to pay.

        Government doesn't support everyone -- in fact laws are fairer to those who can afford a lawyer.

        Not everyone can go and sue someone for harassing them. If someone harasses you a few times from an unknown number, good luck getting the cops to stop them.

        You could certainly argue that this law in particular perhaps goes too far, but you're almost saying it's OK to harass people, until some company invents technology that you can purchase to stop harassment. That is just plain silly.

        Fine. I'll pay $6 for a caller ID box and $24 a year for piece of mind. You want to pay for bureaucracy and red tape and non-effective unconstitutional legislation? You should pay your share of what you use, I'd like to bow out of it.
        • by wurp (51446)
          Maybe you could actually address the real point of this post?

          He said:
          You could certainly argue that this law in particular perhaps goes too far, but you're almost saying it's OK to harass people, until some company invents technology that you can purchase to stop harassment. That is just plain silly.

          You said:
          Fine. I'll pay $6 for a caller ID box and $24 a year for piece of mind. You want to pay for bureaucracy and red tape
        • "Government is not free and in fact costs way more than competitive services."

          This is a myth.
          Another myth is that it is wastefull. All the government accounts are available. I suggest you look at what you get for your dollar, and how much is wasted. It's all public information.

          you say: "I'll pay $6 for a caller ID box and $24 a year for piece of mind. "
          now multiply that by every phone. Lets call it 100,000,000 phone in the US. Your solution is 3 Billion dollars a year.

          "Government doesn't support everyone --
    • Actually, I think the entire law against crank calling is pretty worthless now, anyway.

      Ever met a girl? Many of those have had problems in the past (or now) with stalkers or horny obnoxious men calling all the time. There ought to be a law against that. And it is.

      We have Caller ID -- we can refuse to answer the phone.

      Not all of us can, for some of us, it's our job to take important phone calls 24/7. Nor all people have caller ID. And the phonebook on my phone is of limited size (it could also be an

  • by zap_branigan (691916) on Monday January 09, 2006 @01:04PM (#14428367)
    to tell the submitter what an ass he is.
  • by bleh-of-the-huns (17740) on Monday January 09, 2006 @01:04PM (#14428370)
    I'm gonna call the cops next time some night elf hunter kills my helpless warlock from shadowmeld :P
  • the HOME of flamers and trolls. ;-)

    Soon the forums will be empty as we are all carted off to jail for smart ass comments given with the "intent to annoy".
    • By this logic, the existence of Slashdot is illegal. [cough]Bullshit![cough]

      I'd like to see the first attempted prosecution under this new law.

      >ALLIANCE SUCK
      >HORDE SUCK
      >ALLIANCE SUCK
      >HORDE SUCK
      >I'm calling the cops!

  • What? (Score:3, Funny)

    by chill (34294) on Monday January 09, 2006 @01:05PM (#14428380) Journal
    "Intent to annoy"? Every sibling, spouse and co-worker in America could be charged under this clause!

    My wife LIVES to annoy me! It is one of her main goals in life. I'm fairly certain each of my kids also has a primary purpose to annoy one or more of their siblings, their mother, all their teachers and many of the other kids at school. Frequently phones are involved.

      -Charles
  • by appleLaserWriter (91994) on Monday January 09, 2006 @01:06PM (#14428387)
    I find this new policy annoying.
  • should come with a badge now.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 09, 2006 @01:09PM (#14428415)

    This is silly: the law needs to start taking into account the qualitative differences between things like telephones, email inboxes, blogs, and IM accounts. A 3 AM phone call is different from a post to blogger.com calling me a jerk.

    The law doesn't spell out everything. It's up to judges and juries to decide what qualifies as harrassment. Would they decide repeated 3AM calls is harrassment? Probably. Would they decide somebody calling you a jerk is harrassment? Probably not. But it's something that has to be decided on a case-by-case basis, not something that can be spelled out explicitly by law ahead of time.

    I don't need federal protection from that Night Elf who keeps /chickening my Orc.

    No, but if you were a small-time blogger just scraping by on ad revenue, you might need protection from people making your comment system utterly useless with continued abuse. If Slashdot didn't have full-time staff to program things like the moderation system, the comments would be useless. And believe me, people aren't coming to Slashdot for the crappy game reviews, years-old news and dupes.

  • I ave fellt personally harrased and annoyed by many statements made by politicians. Can I press charges? How can this new law not apply to any form of speech?
  • intent of the medium (Score:5, Interesting)

    by beforewisdom (729725) on Monday January 09, 2006 @01:10PM (#14428444)
    The intent of the medium should be considered in these kind of laws.

    Blogs are public with an implicit invitation ( unless comments are shut off ) by the owner to contact the owner to share your views.

    That is not the same with a phone.
    • This rider, I think, was originally intended to extend harassment laws to VOIP.

      Somehow (gee, I wonder) it got kinda screwed up on the way to the bill, and now inludes all internet communication.
  • sneaky sneaky (Score:5, Insightful)

    by endx7 (706884) on Monday January 09, 2006 @01:11PM (#14428459) Homepage Journal
    I'm not concerned with this particular bill as I am with one of the tactics that was used.

    Namely, I'm talking about the embedding of other mostly unrelated things into a bill. It's especially bad, since with a bill such as this one, the existance of the DoJ relies on this bill getting passed to get its funding. Because of this, members of congress feeled pressed that the bill must be passed (as was noted in the first sentence of jamie's summary).
    • Attaching a rider (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jfengel (409917)
      This is a classic tactic, called "attaching a rider". It's also the legal equivalent of asking, "have you stopped beating your wife?"

      John Kerry's famous "I voted for it before I voted against it" referred to something like this. What he meant was, "I voted for the weapons acquisition bill, but when it brought up again with a whole bunch of stupid riders attached to it I voted against it." Either way, it meant that his enemies could hit him for voting for it, or for voting against it, or for being flip-fl
    • Re:sneaky sneaky (Score:3, Interesting)

      by MrWa (144753)
      While I agree with the opinion that these amendments completely unrelated the main bill are bad, Congress can (and had) not pass the bill if the amendment is not agreeable. For example: the last Defense Appropriations Bill was filibustered and defeated in the Senate because an amendment to allow oil exploration of the Alaska National Wildlife Reserve had been attached by Sen. Ted Stevens from Alaska.

      Usually, making these types of amendments is a way for Congresspeople to vote for an item without directly

    • Re:sneaky sneaky (Score:3, Insightful)

      by necro81 (917438)
      I agree. This sort of tactic of attaching insipid legislation into must-pass bills, where it'll either be so small it won't be noticed, or will be ignored because the rest of the bill must pass, has got to be stricken from the Congressional rules. I do not know how far back it dates, and I know that both political parties have been guilty of it, but the current Republican congressional leadership has elevated it to a fine and thoroughly asinine art. It has, at times, been used to elevate some useful legi
  • by aeoo (568706) on Monday January 09, 2006 @01:16PM (#14428502) Journal
    A 3 AM phone call is different from a post to blogger.com calling me a jerk. I don't need federal protection from that Night Elf who keeps /chickening my Orc.

    Yes, you're right. What sane person would need such a law?

    But on the other hand, I can see how politicians and people in power might need such a law. It would make it illegal to criticize them anonymously.
  • by clancey101 (939107) on Monday January 09, 2006 @01:17PM (#14428509) Homepage
    This law is just part of a continuing effort to erode and limit the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. Continuing attacks on fundamental rights in the United States will continue as long as fear replaces philosophy as the primary tool used to win elections and retain/attain power in elections. It is imperative for citizens of democracies to fight laws which restrict rights -- even if that means protecting the rights of those they find offensive. The test of any action should be whether that action restricts of limits the freedome of others. If it does, then the act is bad., If it does not, then it should be tolerated even if it is ugly and indecent.
  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Monday January 09, 2006 @01:19PM (#14428531) Homepage
    I wonder how this plays out in the context of l'affaire Seigenthaler? [wikipedia.org]

    "Brian Chase, a 38 year old operations manager at Rush Delivery in Nashville, admitted he had placed the allegations there to play a joke on a colleague..." I suppose Chase's intent was to tweak his (unnamed) colleague, not to annoy Seigenthaler...
  • The Road to Hell... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Billosaur (927319) * <`wgrother' `at' `optonline.net'> on Monday January 09, 2006 @01:20PM (#14428541) Journal
    ...is paved with Congressional legislation. Who are they kidding? Just how enforceable is this going to be? Are the federal courts (which are already overburdened with real criminal cases) now to be swamped with case of "he called me a fsck-head on Slashdot?" The intent is good, allowing people to avoid harrassment but the execution is lousy. I can't see this standing up to the inevitable challenge by the ACLU in front of the Supreme Court.
  • by Time Doctor (79352) <zjs@zacharyjackslater.com> on Monday January 09, 2006 @01:22PM (#14428566) Homepage Journal
    When you troll on Slashdot, you troll with Osama!
  • by Deep Fried Geekboy (807607) on Monday January 09, 2006 @01:26PM (#14428601)
    The point of all this bullshit is simply to create a web of laws which can be used to ensnare anybody.

    The next time some wingnut retard says 'so long as you've done nothing wrong, you've nothing to fear', point this out (and tell them how annoying they are).
  • by nekoniku (183821) <justicek AT comcast DOT net> on Monday January 09, 2006 @01:27PM (#14428610) Homepage
    The terrorists is using the Internets!

    And I almost forgot: What about the Children!!?!?!
  • The real crime (Score:4, Insightful)

    by lildogie (54998) on Monday January 09, 2006 @01:31PM (#14428646)
    It should be a crime to prosecute someone unconstitutionally.
  • by Cyphertube (62291) on Monday January 09, 2006 @01:33PM (#14428656) Homepage Journal

    This law sweeps across with a broad stroke and that's bad legislation.

    One problem is a matter of 'annoying' people. What is annoying varies from person to person.

    On the one hand, this means that spammers face yet another law against them. So, spamming while in the U.S. is a really bad idea. I'm sorry, if your name is really Ivan Charles Wiener, then, ok, I guess you can continue to send me erectile dysfunction ads as I.C. Wiener. But Heywood Jablowmie had better look out!

    My question then is a matter of whether or not posting anonymously on a blog is a problem. If you allow real anonymity and you aren't prepared to handle the system, well, you're a fool. But most blogging software takes care of that. And if you force people to register, problem solved.

    The big problem is that 'recipient of communication' is undefined. So, if I have a blog, and I allow people to post anonymously and they don't annoy me, is it a problem if some politician visits my blog and sees that? The original author is anonymous. Granted, as the owner and effective publisher who is not anonymous, well, I would argue that it's now my problem, and too bad, and so on. But sites, like Slashdot, that allow anonymous and disavow ownership of any kind of the post, well, that could be a big problem, as then Slashdot is not committing a crime directly, but can be considered an accessory.

    Hopefully, this thing will be given a reasonable smackdown, but I doubt it.

  • Three words: (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Syberghost (10557) <syberghost AT syberghost DOT com> on Monday January 09, 2006 @01:41PM (#14428737) Homepage
    Line. Item. Veto.
  • Easily Handled (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Renraku (518261) on Monday January 09, 2006 @01:45PM (#14428774) Homepage
    This is easy to take care of.

    Anytime someone posts something bad about you, immediately call the police with full intent to press charges. After we waste enough of the government's time, it will either do the smart thing and revise the law, or the stupid thing and make it a felony.

    Now personally I don't like it when people talk shit about me on my own blog, but I have the tools to remove their remarks thanks to the blog site. I surely don't need a law to protect me. The only way I could see it being useful is if some corporation decided they didn't like me and would engage in a smear campaign against my name on the websites I frequent. Then I would leverage this law (or libel..).
  • by surfingmarmot (858550) on Monday January 09, 2006 @03:09PM (#14429574)
    Most of you are looking at this from an individual perspective and you are grossly mistaken. How foolish you all are to think this law is to protect you! You the people! Hah! This administration doesn't do things for the people, they do them for big businesses with lots of funding to contribute to campaigns and with lobbyists who have big entertainment budgets. In other words corporations who are tired of trying to use ineffective civil law suits to stifle free speech about them. So this law is _not_ to give you power--it is to give corporations the power to criminalize product and corporate criticism on the internet. After all, civil suits are so darned expensive, but if a corporation can send a few people to jail, then that will have an immediate and severe chillng effect and squelch bad product reviews and negative comments about customer service and corporations. Don't believe me? Wait an see.
  • Maybe this is needed (Score:3, Interesting)

    by finkster (937210) on Monday January 09, 2006 @03:37PM (#14429831) Homepage
    Perhaps this is the legal vehicle to aid in the prosecution of electronic harassment. A growing trend with middle and high school kids is to create blogs/website/emails to harass fellow students.

    I have seen some very vicious blog sites devoted to the defamation of a fellow student. Without the legal ammo, law enforcement has their hands tied as to the extent they can investigate and remove the content.

    With the web, you can anonymously bully fellow students from the comforts of your own bedroom.

    We need to weigh your right to flame someone with the rights of people to be protected from harassment.

    What amazes me, more than anything, is that some people seem to feel the need to draw a line between the real world and the Internet. For example, are on-line auctions THAT different from real-life auctions? How about shopping carts?

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