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Censorship Government United States News Your Rights Online

Bill Would Declare Your Blog a Weapon 780

Posted by kdawson
from the can't-say-that-it's-too-severe dept.
Mike writes "Law prof Eugene Volokh blogs about a US House of Representatives bill proposed by Rep. Linda T. Sanchez and 14 others that could make it a federal felony to use your blog, social media like MySpace and Facebook, or any other Web media 'to cause substantial emotional distress through "severe, repeated, and hostile" speech.' Rep. Sanchez and colleagues want to make it easier to prosecute any objectionable speech through a breathtakingly broad bill that would criminalize a wide range of speech protected by the First Amendment. The bill is called The Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act, and if passed into law (and if it survives constitutional challenge) it looks almost certain to be misused."
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Bill Would Declare Your Blog a Weapon

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  • Classic ploy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by shellster_dude (1261444) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @12:48PM (#27833951)
    I love how the bill starts with the classic, "for the children" clauses to rationalize the trampling of the bill of rights.
  • Not too worried (Score:4, Insightful)

    by captaindomon (870655) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @12:49PM (#27833979)
    This is just a clarification of "harassment" as it already exists. It's not an attempt to shut down blogs. If someone is obviously and intentionally harassing someone else, I have no problem with them having legal recourse.
  • by Reality Master 201 (578873) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @12:50PM (#27833997) Journal

    Write your congresscritters. If you fail to do so, you're complicit in whatever happens.

    That said, it's a stupid bill.

  • by LuxMaker (996734) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @12:52PM (#27834047) Journal
    Instead of making new laws, why can't they just enforce the ones already on the books? Yes, this is nothing but an extra power grab designed to keep you in your place.
  • Dear Linda Sanchez (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Locke2005 (849178) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @12:53PM (#27834059)
    If you don't like the things I say in my blog, wouldn't the most rational reaction be to simply don't fucking read it???
  • by MrJerryNormandinSir (197432) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @12:56PM (#27834125)

    police state! It's time to stand up for what we believe in. It's time for our voices to be heard. We can't be passive citizens anymore. As each week passes we loose more and more of our rights as American Citizens.

    I think we should seriously design an underground internet, just in case we need it.

    I'm going to a "tea party" gathering on July 4th.

  • Re:AKA the ED law (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nitehawk214 (222219) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @12:57PM (#27834147)

    That said, nothing of value was lost.

    Aside from our freedom of speech, that is.

  • by nurb432 (527695) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @12:59PM (#27834175) Homepage Journal

    It only protects you while its in place. They can remove those 2 amendments.

    That is what they are trying to do in effect with this.

  • by clone53421 (1310749) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @01:00PM (#27834203) Journal

    I like to believe parent was not trolling but trying to point out, in his own way, that Slashdot's anonymous posting feature could come under fire if "objectionable speech" is criminalized.

  • Re:Not too worried (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nurb432 (527695) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @01:00PM (#27834213) Homepage Journal

    its not an attempt to shut down a blog i agree, its a direct attack on ones ability to speak in a public forum unless its 'approved' by the government.

    If you think its just an 'innocent clarification' you are sadly mistaken and naive.

  • by plague3106 (71849) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @01:00PM (#27834215)

    No, they're not trying to remove the First Amendment. It's still there, and if this bill conflicts with the First Amendment (and I can't see how any reasonable person could say otherwise), its clear legally that the bill would be tossed out as unconstitutional.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @01:04PM (#27834269)

    You don't know what socialism is, do you?

  • Re:Not too worried (Score:5, Insightful)

    by malchus842 (741252) <stephen@adamsemail.net> on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @01:04PM (#27834277) Homepage
    Complaining is one thing. Fining you and sending you to jail is a completely different thing. Free Speech pretty much guarantees that you are going to be offended by someone, somewhere, sometime. Deal with it.
  • by Shivetya (243324) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @01:05PM (#27834287) Homepage Journal

    because between his vilifying AIG employees to Chrysler bond holders I think he more than qualifies.

    IOW - Sanchez and company want to stop certain speech on websites because many of their opponents have been very successful there. This will go great when they find a back door method to implement the "fairness doctrine" by other means (diversity in radio or some of the child act)

    So it has come to this, because we have become so good at getting the truth out about what these people are doing in Washington they now think that since they successfully got McCain-Feingold to block us from timely disclosure during an election period that they need to cover the rest of the time?

    Just when is change going to happen where something good happens? This shit doesn't just pop out of Congress without someone in the White House giving it approval.

    Hell Bush only listened to what we were saying private, these guys would prefer duct taping our hands together and our mouths shut.

    Do we have an open square and some tanks they can use? (in eight weeks they are making eight years of Bush look friendlier)

  • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @01:05PM (#27834293)

    Sweet, the right to a blog would be protected by both the first and second amendments!

    He was not only a Founding Father and signer of The Declaration of Indepence and the Constitution . . . he was the first US American blogger. He not only wrote wacky and insightful stuff . . . he printed it himself as well!

    If he were alive today, he would be writing a blog . . . and working at CERN . . . functioning as an ambassador . . . and doing Buckaroo Banzai stuff on the side.

  • How about... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RingDev (879105) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @01:08PM (#27834377) Homepage Journal

    instead of reducing the number of rights people have, we increase the responsibility that they must take for exercising those rights?

    You want to cyber bully some one, go for it. But if that person commits suicide due to your actions, we'll hold you accountable for it.

    Same with gun laws. You want a full auto machine gun? Go for it! You screw up with a gun, and we'll destroy your life.

    Instead of teaching people not to do things, we should be teaching them that there are repercussions to the acts that they take. You have the freedom to f' up. But with that freedom comes the personal responsibility to not f'up.

    -Rick

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @01:09PM (#27834389)

    do you not understand?

  • by malchus842 (741252) <stephen@adamsemail.net> on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @01:09PM (#27834405) Homepage

    There's always a fine line where free speech "goes to far".

    Really? And what would that be? Something you don't like? Something your mom doesn't like? Something Senator Bedfellow doesn't like? Sorry, Free Speech means that you are going to be offended and hear lots of things you don't like.

    but should someone be allowed to say they want to kill all members of [group X]? If so, do members of [group X] have the right to take that threat seriously and act accordingly by pre-emptively defending themselves against the threat?

    An actual threat is one thing - and it's already covered in current law. So is a conspiracy to commit a crime. But saying that all XXX's ought to be killed? That's free speech. Acting on it or threatening by saying "I am going to kill all XXX's" is not.

    Calling someone names is NOT, and should NOT be a crime. Ever.

  • Re:Classic ploy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by commodore64_love (1445365) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @01:13PM (#27834465) Journal

    I sumbit that our children don't want their free speech rights to be taken away. We need to protect the first amendment "for the children" who will someday be bloggers themselves. In fact many of them already are.

  • That is, unless you call someone names until you make them cry.

    'to cause substantial emotional distress through "severe, repeated, and hostile" speech.

    This law will further criminalize every teenager in America.

  • this is what happened to meier: she was mentally and emotionally unstable. she was a minor. an adult, over an extended period of time, purposefully targetted her and assassinated her confidence with false friends and false romantic interests and outright suggesting she kill herself. then she committed suicide

    obviously, no one here supports that. at the same time, those rightfully outraged about what happened to meier are proposing limitations on free speech which are too broad. what you need to do is take what motivates them and REDIRECT their free speech limiting efforts to not be so broad. just laughing and riciculing their efforts doesn't satisfy their motivations. and their motivations are real and vlaid, so you have to address them:

    you can say anything you want online. unless you: 1. target one individual, 2. over an extended period of time, 3. who is a minor (nad you are an adult), 4. who is mentally unstable

    those who want to fight bullying would agree with this. you, defenders of free speech, would agree to this. so stop just shouting down and ridiculing those who are fighting cyberbullying. just redirect their passions. what motivates them is real and valid: a teenage girl was hounded to commit suicide. there is a valid reason to protect her. there is a valid legal space in which new speech laws can exist that, again:

    1. stand against targetting one individual
    2. over an extended period of time
    3. who is a minor (and the bully is an adult)
    4. who is mentally unstable

    the most hardcore free speech zealot understands why you cant shout fire in a crowded theatre. therefore, everyone recognizes that yes, there actually ARE limits to free speech. so take what motivates those who are angry at the meier case, and HELP them channel their anger into a SPECIFIC limit on online speech of the form of the 4 limitations above

    you have to respect the legitimacy of what motivates those who are upset about what happened to meier. just laughing at or ridiculing their overarching efforts doesn't stop them from trying to right the injustive that happened to meier. you can HELP them, and HELP to retain your free speech principles by tailoring and redirecting their passions to a specifically worded area of what is obviously heinous cyberbullying and does not infringe on your free speech rights

    imagine that, compromise, rather than a bunch of kneejerk zealotry like you find in other comments here, without any recognition that waht motivates those who are righfully outraged about wehat happened to meier

    for those of you who care about your free speech rights: how do you protect the meiers of the world? you need to address that. if you don't, there will be continued attacks on free speech forever, because what motivates those who want to protect the meiers of the world is just as valid an impulse as those who want to protect free speech

    sure, some of you could say the meiers of the world need to just toughen up. fuck them, people are cruel, get used to it

    by the same token, i could say to you that some assholes want to limit your free speech so tough luck, just shut up about some of what you want to say... this statement is bullshit, i'm just demonstrating that if you don't show any sensitivity to valid concerns about cruelty to others, why do expect anyone to have sympathy for your concerns about free speech?

    because, in the end, the principles and passions that support free speech are the same principles and passions that seek to protect the meiers of this world. you protect the rights and liberties of the weak in this world, or you merely help create a world of cruelty, in which limits of free speech are inevitable. limits on free speech are really just a form of cruelty that this cyberbully demonstrated when manipulating meier

  • by Rolgar (556636) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @01:20PM (#27834597)

    Um you might be wrong, unfortunately. Obama has four justices that will rubber stamp anything he signs. It's just a matter of convincing Kennedy, and he's unreliable to read which is why he's the swing vote on the court for as long as Obama is president, unless Obama accidentally has a justice pick go conservative on him.

    This will probably be used primarily against conservatives who oppose gay marriage, since homosexuals are currently attempting to control information sources to sway the voters who've rejected gay marriage in about 30 states. While most outspoken celebrities and MSM is on their side, they can't force their opponents off the internet unless they infringe upon their free speech rights, so that's what they're trying to do here.

    As much as I hated the KKK, I reluctantly agreed that they should get their free speech rights. Unfortunately, it looks like this Democratic government is going to overturn this under the guise of legislating political correctness.

  • by Hadlock (143607) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @01:20PM (#27834599) Homepage Journal

    I blew off the republican's stand against the federal government as a way to shore up support for the Republican party, and as a registered democrat, I do see some validity in their point. Am I trolling? No. My point is, this is a FEDERAL crime they're speaking of. This is definitely something that can be handled and prosecuted at the state level. This has zero effect on national security or interstate commerce. The fact that this is being handled at the Federal level indicates it's just a Bush-era grab for additional surveillance. Put on your tin foil hat everyone, this isn't just fantasy, this sort of bill passing is a weekly occurrence in England. Stop this crap from coming to our borders. The new fight isn't against communist Russia, it's Orwellian England.

  • by TheGeniusIsOut (1282110) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @01:21PM (#27834615)

    "with the intent to coerce, intimidate, harass, or cause substantial emotional distress to a person"

    Who determines intent? Is it what I say my intent was, or is it what they say my intent was?

    ...but should someone be allowed to say they want to kill all members of [group X]?

    Yes, they should.

    If so, do members of [group X] have the right to take that threat seriously and act accordingly by pre-emptively defending themselves against the threat?

    Yes again, and all involved have the right to pay the consequences of any unlawful actions they may take. Declaring the desire to do harm to a group of people is protected speech, however planning to do harm to a group of people and making preparations to do so is pre-meditation. The specifics of the situation determine the legality, and we already have laws to account for them. If [group X] decides to preemptively strike the threatener, then they have commited a crime unless they can justify self-defense to the satisfaction of the court.

    Words are words, by themselves incapable of causing harm unless uttered at extremely high volumes. It is only when those words are acted upon that they become harmful, and blame then falls upon the perpetrator, not the author. Slander and libel are a different matter, of course, but again, we already have laws to deal with those situations.

  • by sdkmvx (1283388) <<sdkmvx> <at> <gmail.com>> on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @01:22PM (#27834645)

    the most hardcore free speech zealot understands why you cant shout fire in a crowded theatre. therefore, everyone recognizes that yes, there actually ARE limits to free speech.

    There is no law that says you cannot shout "fire" wherever you want to. Any limits on that are the property owner's. They can say that you shouting "fire" is dangerous to their business and ask you to leave if you want to do so. The converse applies too, get the owner's permission and you can go around shouting "fire" all you want.

    So no, that does not limit free speech, because it's long established that property owner's have control over what goes on at their property.

  • by Locke2005 (849178) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @01:26PM (#27834713)
    Freedom is also the right not to listen to what you don't want to hear. "La, la, la... I can't hear you!" The law must strike a balance between these two rights, but clearly no one is forcing anyone to read a blog, so it should be considered pure free speech. (Unless it advocates and/or encourages the use of violence or other criminal activities by third parties. I.e. saying "Linda Sanchez should eat shit and die!" is acceptable speech, whereas saying "Somebody should just shoot that stupid bitch Linda Sanchez" should be considered a criminal act. Please note that any quotes I have made regarding Linda Sanchez should be considered merely as hypothetical examples; I don't really think that she is a bad person or advocate harassing her in any way. If you do choose to contact her, please focus your criticism entirely on the bill and do not stoop to personal attacks, even if you feel the authors of the bill may be somewhat unenlightened.
  • simple truth... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by 800DeadCCs (996359) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @01:29PM (#27834773)

    All free speech, is hate speech.

  • by Shakrai (717556) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @01:29PM (#27834777) Journal

    As much as I hated the KKK, I reluctantly agreed that they should get their free speech rights. Unfortunately, it looks like this Democratic government is going to overturn this under the guise of legislating political correctness.

    Are you surprised? Most European countries (which are regarded as further to the left than the United States in most instances) already criminalize "hate" speech. I'm no fan of "hate speech" myself but my right to free speech overrides your right not to be offended by what I say. Besides, the danger of the Government getting to say what is and what is not "hate speech" should be apparent to anyone.

    Whatever happened to "I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to my death your right to say it"? Why does it seem like Democrats are at least as effective at infringing on civil liberties as Republicans are, but never seem to get called on their BS to the same degree?

  • Grow up! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by techhead79 (1517299) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @01:34PM (#27834857)
    People need to grow up! With this bill signed into law no one could not post anything online negative at all about anyone. All a plaintiff would have to do to make someone's life a living hell is to be a complainer and ball their eyes out in court.

    Due to a personal experience on this note, it's bad enough blogs get taken down just for speaking out of acceptable tune. We have raised a bunch of gutless hopeless children that have no concept of standing up for yourself or letting words lay where they belong. There used to be this concept that only actions can cause distress...but now? Today? We are a nation of complainers. I find this pathetic! - and I just nominated myself as the first one to be punished by this law...for anyone that is in support of it would see that statement as me calling them pathetic and thus causing them mental pains...GROW UP!
  • the rights and authority of property owners are, shall we say, not so sacrosanct as you think. nor should they be

    say a moviehouse owner gives a guy 100% permission to yell fire in his theatre. so what? say someone dies in the stampede due to this guy yelling fire. at what point in your mind do you believe whatever permission the moviehouse owner gave or did not give has any validity whatsoever in the outcome of this situation? its wrong to shout fire in a crowded theatre. period. end of story. no matter what any property owner thinks or whatever permission he gives, this line of reasoning has no bearing whatsoever, because it doesn't trump anyone's right not to die in a stampede

    say my neighbor runs a crack house. and he is 100% ok by this. except i'm not too happy about the effects on my property values because no one wants to live next to a crack house (nevermind the obvious increase in crime that would result). me, and the other neighhbors, and the city at large, and society at large, have greater rights here. we can forfeit this guy's right to own this property, because he removing more rights and freedoms than any property ownership entitles him to. in other words, the rights and freedoms of the property owning individual ends when his policies and actions begins to infringe on other peoples rights and liberties. shouting fire in a theatre, or running a crackhouse, most certainly are examples of limits on such property rights

    property rights are extremely limited rights. there are tons of rights that trump property rights. i don't know why you and this weird small cadre of folks thinks so much springs from property rights, when in reality property rights are a small and minor space of rights, and in fact, SHOULD be a small and minor space of rights. that there are other rigths, such as free speech, that easily outweigh property rights, and should outweigh property rights, acocrding to any sound understanding of the principles of liberty and freedom, morality and reason

  • by wowbagger (69688) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @01:35PM (#27834885) Homepage Journal

    <sarcasm>
    ZOMFGWTFBBQ!!1!!! Damn Republicans! Them and their middle-of-the-country Bible Belt politics always trying to take away our rights! It really.....

    Just a moment.....

    I was just handed this note that Rep. Linda T. Sanchez is actually a Democrat from California.

    Nevermind...
    </sarcasm>

    Seriously, had a Republican from Oklahoma proposed this, what do you think the odds that the <cough>editors </cough> would have taken the time to add the "(R-OK)" to that story.

    Come on Slashdot - how about just being consistent - ALWAYS add the party and state affiliation to any US politicians name, and ideally do the same for politicians from other lands as well.

  • Re:Not too worried (Score:5, Insightful)

    by garcia (6573) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @01:40PM (#27834983)

    I most certainly did read the bill:

    `Sec. 881. Cyberbullying

                `(a) 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.

                `(b) As used in this section--

                            `(1) the term `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; and

                            `(2) the term `electronic means' means any equipment dependent on electrical power to access an information service, including email, instant messaging, blogs, websites, telephones, and text messages.'.

                (b) Clerical Amendment- The table of sections at the beginning of chapter 41 of title 18, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following new item:

    What part of that specifies that my First Amendment rights aren't being violated especially about political discussion? Nothing. If I continuously call a politician a slimy bitch for taking my tax dollars and wasting them on a $20 million performing arts center that is leaking money faster than the city leaders ever could have possibly imagined all while smiling and ignoring the question when it's posed by others, then according to what I just pasted above, I'm harassing them--which I am not.

  • by Rolgar (556636) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @01:41PM (#27835021)

    In Western society, the economic socialists and the cultural liberals vote Democratic, so until we have a new election system that allows citizens to support a more diverse political policy set, we will continue to exist on a political continuum with the Republicans pulling us away from Communism and the Democrats pulling us towards it (more state control of the economy and less diverse political opinions available in the media).

    The Republicans don't try to legislate what can be broadcast, or debated. And for the most part, they don't need to, because they've chosen the winning side when it comes to the Bill of Rights. Unfortunately, the Democratic party struggles with this, and they've had to largely rely on controlling the mainstream media and the teacher's unions for indoctrination for the 28 years, but now that they've got solid control of the government back and their opponents on the ropes due to Bush's mismanagement, they're going to use the big bully club of slowly replacing as many justices in the court system to allow them to enforce their illegal laws, on the way to making opposition to their agenda a fringe movement.

  • by ElectricTurtle (1171201) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @01:42PM (#27835035)
    If 'any reasonable person' would find it unconstitutional, this legislation should have never been proposed in the first place. These people are supposed to have taken an oath to protect the Constitution, not deliberately undermine it.
  • by fataugie (89032) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @01:45PM (#27835121) Homepage

    "Somebody should just shoot that stupid bitch Linda Sanchez" should be considered a criminal act.

    Actually, I would argue until someone acts on that statement, and it can be proven in court that someone's utterance of that statement was the direct cause of the act....I think you should be able to say that as well without fear of prosecution.

    Unless that was a direct order to someone else, then why fear simple words no matter how fucking stupid they may or may not be?

  • by macraig (621737) <mark.a.craig@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @01:45PM (#27835127)

    If the Founding Fathers had access to the 'Net and the same technology we do today, is there any doubt that they would have been blogging their dissenting opinions and activities? They would have been using the 'Net to organize "flash mobs" like the Boston Tea Party. Is there any doubt that TPTB of the day would have declared their blogs "hostile"?

    The only thing new here is the medium. Only control-freak idiots would dare try to treat the activity different because of the medium.

    Who gets to decide what is "severe, repeated, and hostile"? I don't think I want to trust that sort of nonobjective ambiguous judgement to either Congressmen or juries.

    Blogs ARE a weapon of sorts, in any case: the best ones are used to attack groupthink and dogma and make people think and reconsider their cherished pork.

  • Re:AKA the ED law (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gnick (1211984) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @01:48PM (#27835185) Homepage

    That's strange, I didn't realize the constitutional amendments could be voided with the passage of regular laws.

    You must be new here.

    Regular laws don't actually void the constitution, they just 'clarify' it into ineffectiveness.

  • Re:Right to hate (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cptnapalm (120276) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @01:54PM (#27835289)

    It is a change of who you are allowed to hate, I guess.

  • by Maximum Prophet (716608) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @01:54PM (#27835297)
    The hell you say. I consider any word with "bacca" in it to be offensive, hostile, and ugly. I also don't like the name "Sue". If I, or anyone like me, get to be a judge, you're toast.

    It doesn't matter what the content of your blog is, someone will be offended by it.

    Censorship anywhere is a threat to freedom everywhere.
  • by crmarvin42 (652893) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @01:55PM (#27835305)

    Why does it seem like Democrats are at least as effective at infringing on civil liberties as Republicans are, but never seem to get called on their BS to the same degree?

    Because the Democrats are the "Party of the People!"

    Never mind that they were the only national party prior to the Civil War, the dominant party in the South during the era of Jim Crow, the major proponents of Affirmative Action (which is just racism in reverse), and the "Fairness Doctrine" (currently more of a boogyman being trotted out by that blow hard Rush, than an actual rallying point for the Dems, but it does have it's supporters).

    They just keep chanting "Party of the People!", increasing the number of people on the dole from the US treasury, and trotting out images of Kennedy or Clinton, and assure the voters that they're taking care of everything.

    As you can probably tell I'm not a Dem, but I don't believe they are all that different from the image they paint of the Republicans. Both are comprised of faliable people, prone to mistakes and greed. It's just that those who vote Republican hold their politicians to a (slightly) higher standard than the Dems do.

    Consiquently, when the Dems pull out their pitchforks and torches to pursue a Republican, they are often accompanied by some Republicans that are just as irate. When a Dem screws up the only people in the mob are Republicans.

    Since most /. members that are actually afiliated with either party are Dems, and the majority of the unaffiliated are Liberal, it's no surpise that you won't get as much vitriol aimed at this woman than if she were seated on the other side of the isle. The reaction will be more along the lines of "OMG, she should be a Republican. How could she betray us like that", or "all politicians are corrupt, Anarchy RULEZ!!" instead of the "Burn her at the Stake!!" that she deserves, regardless of party affiliation (and of course that goes for all of the bills sponsors).

  • by cawpin (875453) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @01:55PM (#27835315)

    I'm no fan of "hate speech" myself but my right to free speech overrides your right not to be offended by what I say.

    While I agree with the intent of your post I have to point out one glaring inaccuracy. NOBODY has a RIGHT to not be offended. That is the simple, logical mistake of every person who introduces, or defends, things like this proposed bill.

  • by poetmatt (793785) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @01:59PM (#27835401) Journal

    Umm, what if someone decides that your blog is "severe" enough. Severe is a subjective word with no definition, which is exactly the problem with this. Severe is akin to "I don't like you, thus I find your content objectionable" and suddenly you committed a felony.

    Slashdot headlines can be a bit over the top, but I wouldn't assume that any blog is magically not objectionable even if there are no swear words or hostile phrases.

  • I wish we had a "three strikes" law for politicans. If you propose or sponsor Constitutionally illegal laws more than twice in your career, you get immediately shit-canned.

  • by jmorris42 (1458) * <jmorris@@@beau...org> on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @02:05PM (#27835509)

    > ..and the "Fairness Doctrine" (currently more of a boogyman being trotted out by that blow hard Rush,
    > than an actual rallying point for the Dems, but it does have it's supporters).

    [SARCASM]

    Ain't it the truth. Right now it only has a few back benchers like Congresswoman Pelosi behind it. But if Rush lets up on bashing it some of the more influential politicians might feel safe enough to start pushing it.

    [/SARCASM]

    It's all of a kind with this crap in today's article, previous attempt by the 'progressives' like McCain/Feingold, etc. But people refuse to connect the dots and see that one party just can't seem to stop attacking the Bill of Rights. If they aren't attacking the 1st Amendment they are attacking the 2nd. They won their fight against the 9th and 10th long ago, as those are are simply dead these days. Do you really believe they won't go after the others? They really have problems with the whole concept of a Constituition and the Rule of Law thing, they prefer the Rule of Men... so long as it is them doing the Ruling.

  • You should have read more than the headline because frankly, the headline sucks. This bill strives to make "severe, repeated, and hostile" speech used in cyberbullying a criminal offense. Since MY blog doesn't have any of that stuff, this bill would not be able to declare my blog a weapon. By no means am I supporting this bill, but also by no means do I consider this alarmist headline to have any validity.

    Does someone really have to trot out the tired old "At first they came for..." list for the risks to be evident?

  • by initdeep (1073290) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @02:14PM (#27835641)

    because congress needs to repeatedly validate their existence by passing new laws instead of merely modifying existing ones or writing ones that are good enough to be properly enforced.

    Kinda like how we need repeateded attempts at new gun control laws so that only those attempting to follow the law are confused.

    The criminals don't care, they've already proven that by being criminals.

    I VOTE WE NAME THIS THE "DIRTY SANCHEZ" BILL!!!!!!

  • by ConceptJunkie (24823) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @02:15PM (#27835659) Homepage Journal

    Tough cases make bad law. So do emotional cripples. A healthy person would not kill himself over something like this. It's a very unfortunate situation, but this law is just another step down the Orwellian slippery slope our government has been rushing down the last 20 years or so.

    How can a country founded on free speech enact laws that attempt to control what you think? That's what this is all about.

    You cannot control people's thoughts. That's the worst kind of police state imaginable. Murder is murder. The pre-hate crimes definitions are only reasonable ways we can distinguish among different levels of culpability.

    When it comes to speech, we cannot turn the whole world into Romper Room because some little emo girl took her nihilistic rock and roll records a little too literally. It's an ugly world out there. That's a shame, but it's true and you can't stop it or legislate it away.

  • by blueskies (525815) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @02:18PM (#27835723) Journal

    This will probably be used primarily against conservatives who oppose gay marriage, since homosexuals are currently attempting to control information sources to sway the voters who've rejected gay marriage in about 30 states. While most outspoken celebrities and MSM is on their side, they can't force their opponents off the internet unless they infringe upon their free speech rights, so that's what they're trying to do here.

    How's the tin-foil hat?

    Homosexuals are attempting to control information sources!!! ZOMFG! Quick! Activate hetero-defense systems. Everyone, touch their opposite sex partner to create a wave of Hetero-ness to defend us!!!!

    I would hate for my marriage to be weaken by gay marriage to the point where i suddenly don't just like cock, but love it and need it. Please, Jesus, protect me from this!!!

    Don't force me to reconsider my "choice" of being hetero!

  • by Maximum Prophet (716608) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @02:19PM (#27835745)

    his is what happened to meier: she was mentally and emotionally unstable

    Instead of stopping anyone's free speech, perhaps the courts should appoint a protector for mentally unstable minors. That protector could be call something like a "Guardian", or "Parent".

  • Re:How about... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by EvolutionsPeak (913411) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @02:23PM (#27835811)

    Unfortunately, logic doesn't work too well with politicians, legislators, law enforcement officers, and judges, so I'm not a fan of relying solely on legislation and law enforcement to prevent bad things from happening.

    Fixed that for you.

    Teaching people not to do bad things by making them take responsibility for their actions forces them to learn to think before they act and prepares them to meet new situations.

    Just telling people, "don't do these things cause they're bad, mmmk", is telling people not to think.

    I would rather live in a society with people who use critical thought to make decisions and I believe it is vital to a strong democracy.

  • by Stiletto (12066) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @02:25PM (#27835875)

    1. stand against targetting one individual

    What if it's against two people? A-OK, or close enough?

    2. over an extended period of time

    Define "extended".

    3. who is a minor (and the bully is an adult)

    If a minor does it to a minor, can he/she be charged "as an adult"?
    If an adult does it to an adult, can the prosecution claim that the victim has a "child-like" mentality?

    4. who is mentally unstable

    Define.

    There are so many loopholes in those criteria. I'd prefer that we just stick to the 1st Amendment, thank you very much.

  • by Maximum Prophet (716608) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @02:38PM (#27836159)

    Disagree with a law all you want, but your only recourse, if this thing were to pass, would be to challenge its constitutionality.

    How about we disagree with it enough to our congressbeings that they don't pass it in the first place, m'kay?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @02:38PM (#27836161)

    I will say now and I have always said it, this is an adult's world. I am tired of our elected officials, and these parent groups trying to turn the real world into some giant fucking playpen. I love how politicians upon election catch a tick that forces them to compulsively think of the children and try to legislate away our rights so that we can protect snot nosed little assholes. I'm sorry, your kid may be cute to you, your kid may be your pride and joy but they are also becoming an obstacle to the ideals of this country. Look at what is being done all over the United States to shelter kids from the air everyone else breathes. Phys Ed is started to take on a "no loser" policy where everyone must engage in an activity where there are no losers and everyone is a winner because of some need not to make a child feel bad. Do people honestly think that is in the child's best interest. Look at parent groups like the PTC trying to take anything and everything that aren't mindless programming off the air because a kid might see it. Now we have this cyberbulling bullshit because some kid(s) with emotional problems offed themselves.

    Every generation of adults look at the world around them and realize that it is the same shitty world their parents inherited (just with newer technology) and thinks that if they shelter their children, they will grow up to create a perfect world. Doesn't seem to work like that. You keep a kid away from the feelings of losing, sadness, stress, and fear and when those feelings finally hit you have just created a generation of mal-adjusted assholes. Being a child is not some magic state that becomes undone on somebody's 18th birthday. A kid is just an adult in training and we (society AND parents) should keep that in mind. Having said that, fuck your children, they are your problem. I won't go out of my way to harm a child but I am also not going to curtail my rights and liberties because some kid might cry.

  • by causality (777677) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @02:43PM (#27836259)

    You should have read more than the headline because frankly, the headline sucks. This bill strives to make "severe, repeated, and hostile" speech used in cyberbullying a criminal offense. Since MY blog doesn't have any of that stuff, this bill would not be able to declare my blog a weapon. By no means am I supporting this bill, but also by no means do I consider this alarmist headline to have any validity.

    The summary had it right. The emphasis is mine:

    The bill is called The Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act, and if passed into law (and if it survives constitutional challenge) it looks almost certain to be misused."

    When are you and the population in general going to learn that that's the whole point? Almost all politicians are lawyers; it's not like they don't understand the implications of a law and can't foresee its abuses. So, why would someone be perfectly capable of knowing that this will be abused and support it anyway? Because that's exactly what they want. What we call "abuse" they might call "consolidation of power." It doesn't even require some smoky-back-room conspiracy, all it requires is the understanding that people who love power want more of it and are willing to take measures in order to obtain it. What did you expect, exactly? Do you suppose that the Hitlers of the world obtain power by going out in public and delivering speeches which say "I want to rule all of you under an evil totalitarian police state that will cause much misery and suffering, so vote for me!" No, they don't. They have to be subtle and they have to have plausible deniability at each step.

    Really, the level of naivete and downright stupidity on the part of the ruled (not the governed) regarding these basic things is pathetic and shameful. Even public education and all of the indoctrination and the snuffing out of natural intuitive brightness that goes along with it does not adequately explain how badly, how desperately, many of you want to believe that these hollow and soul-less mockeries of human beings (that is, our rulers) somehow have our best interests at heart. It is self-destructive and completely without excuse. Does that sound harsh? Is this Flamebait because you don't like to hear it? Consider that the widespread stupidity of the general public is materially damaging my life and the life of anyone else who does not wish to live in a totalitarian police state. Then tell me whether my response is so harsh or whether it's incredibly civil. Then talk to me about what you don't like to hear.

  • by stewbacca (1033764) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @02:45PM (#27836297)
    "...if this were to pass", as in after it passes, you really have no recourse. So get involved early and often--It's better than waiting for a stupid law to get passed then just blowing it off just because *randomslashdotuser* thinks it's unconstitutional. I think you are delusional if you think your congressperson cares what you think (unless it's close to election day).
  • by Dreadneck (982170) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @02:49PM (#27836353)

    I think that lying in order to harm someone's livelihood is something that should be considered reasonable.

    That's why we have laws against libel and slander. This bill is a blatant assault on the freedom of speech. It is so broadly worded that ANYTHING you say on the web can get you arrested if it hurts someone's feelings. What happened to Megan Meier was tragic, but the answer is not to give the government the power to quash free speech.

  • by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @02:54PM (#27836433)
    This is a really stupid idea to cement the power of Tyranny of the Easily Offended, in the same way Feminism was in good part a way to move less-attractive women into the mainstream. Everybody is offended by something so anything you write will fall afoul of this really stupid idea.

    The world does not come with bumpers, training wheels, automatic sensitivity, and no sharp objects. You will be offended, hurt, angry, and in tears, about things you encounter along the way. That's the way the world is. Rather than trying to change the Universe, why not just learn to deal with it?

    Of course this puts all the sensitivity trainers and those who benefit from itout of business -- but this would be a Good Thing!
  • by Hellpop (451893) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @02:58PM (#27836531) Homepage

    That's an awfully paranoid response from someone criticizing "tin-foil hats". That tin-foil helmet you are wearing suddenly doesn't count?

    I do not know one single person against legalizing gay-marriage who thinks that gay marriage will weaken their marriage. As far as I can discern, that argument is an artificial construct created by liberals to belittle anyone who doesn't agree with them.

    Me, I say, everyone should be allowed to get married. They can pay the marriage tax penalties like the rest of us. In fact, they should tax any couples who cohabit for more than a year the same way.

  • by scorp1us (235526) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @02:59PM (#27836547) Journal

    There has been a disturbing shift in congress that has happened over the past oh, century or so. Though, I am not naive enough to think its only recent. Its just that now, it is rampant.

    There was a time when congress acted responsibly, and I mean by that that they cared about the laws they passed. They worried about things like constitutionality, and if they had the authority to even pass such laws. But circa WWII, I've noticed a change that in mentality that says "let the courts sort it out". While it is is in the jurisdiction of the courts to sort it out, the courts are meant to be our last line of defense from oppressive laws. Not the first. The legislative branches have turned into bill factories pushing out bills as fast as they can be voted on them. The measure of government isn't how many bills it can pass.

    I cannot believe that a member of congress, who believes in the constitution, would ever introduce legislation so patently contradictory to any right in the Bill of Rights. This should be grounds for impeachment as far as I am concerned...

  • by jmorris42 (1458) * <jmorris@@@beau...org> on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @03:02PM (#27836593)

    > These two things are mutually exclusive.

    Really? So you launched the 2nd American Revolution when the 1st Amendment went away? It did you know, McCain Feingold's purpose was to carefully regulate political speech in the times when it matters most, near an election. It was passed mostly by Democrat politicians but was signed by President Bush even though he knew it to be unconstituitional. He was afraid of the MSM attacking him as a defender of big lobbists (which was no excuse to forsake his Oath) and then the Supremes suprised him and upheld it in one of their infamous 5-4 decisions.

    So "Congress shall make no law.." is null and void because the Supremes said Congress CAN make a law so long as they approve of the law. So how many congresscritters did you bag? Uh huh.

    When the 'assault weapons ban' was in effect that was most certainly an infringement. Hell, the machine gun ban is most certainly an infringement for the purposes of "..shall not be infringed." since at the time the Right of the People to Keep and Bear Arms included every weapon the military bore into war. Private militia companies even owned cannon. How many congresscritter and/pr faithless judges did you bag?

    Nope, we be frogs slowly boiling to death.

  • allegory:

    someone hits my kid with a car. the existence of me, the parent/ guardian, was supposed to protect my kid from being hit by a car?

    are you suggesting that just because someone has a parent/ guardian they are protected from cyberbullying? the wisest parenting, in fact, suggests that teenage children need their own private social space in which to develop their own identity. that, as a rule of good parenting, a good parent should butt out of micromanaging a child's online social life

    i really don't understand what you are trying to say, or why you think a parent/ guardian somehow protects form cyberbullying

  • Re:How about... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Reziac (43301) * on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @03:20PM (#27836877) Homepage Journal

    "You want to cyber bully some one, go for it. But if that person commits suicide due to your actions, we'll hold you accountable for it."

    So if I write that X is an unstable idiot, and X then commits suicide, I'm to blame for X's mental instability??!

    How are you going to prove that X wrote what I read? Even then, how are you going to prove that what I wrote drove X over the edge? What if EVERYONE who writes about X says the same thing?? which of us do you put on trial??

    This is just codifying passing-the-blame, and freedom from responsibility for your OWN actions.
    Similarly, it follows from this law that if X reads your blog, then commits a crime, X can disclaim responsibility for his actions via "But reading this blog made me do it!"

  • by BlatOdea (992190) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @03:28PM (#27837033) Homepage

    should have never

    supposed to

    Yup... These are indeed key phrases to keep in mind whilst talking about the Government. Idealism and what's right fail in the presence of Government agenda.

  • by DesertWolf0132 (718296) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @03:28PM (#27837047) Homepage
    The author of the bill has what she believes to be a noble cause. On its surface, stopping cyber-bullying is truly a noble and lofty goal. The problem that emerges from doing it in function is in making a law broad enough to stop it, you also stifle legitimate speech.

    Imagine M$ lawyers construing our legitimate criticisms as abuse under this law. As the law treats corporations legally as non-human persons they are granted equal protection. While the suit would never stand, free speech would be stifled at the mere threat of a suit.

    In the end, kids will always be bullies or bullied. Whether online or in person, bullies are only given power when we pay attention to them. Rep. Sanchez, as much as I am for protecting children, it would be a bigger injustice to not protect the most sacred right in a free state.
  • by Kreigaffe (765218) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @04:30PM (#27837993)

    No, but you're completely misunderstanding what's going on here.
    If Microsoft found your blog to be full of severe, repeated hostile language, then you would be in violation of the law. Not CIVIL law, but FEDERAL law. This wouldn't be a case where you sue for damages. This would be a case where they show evidence to a jury of your peers that the language on your blog was, indeed, severely hostile and repeated, and thus in violation of the law, and then you'd go to federal pound-me-in-the-ass prison.
    If they found that the contents of your blog were also harmful lies, well, that's a civil matter. THAT would be libel.

    But that's a whole different case. As far as I can see, this bill makes no distinction between truth and falsehood -- therefor, you could be locked up for saying things that are COMPLETELY TRUE, yet cause somebody to feel severe emotional distress (PEOPLE GET SEVERELY EMOTIONALLY DISTRESSED WHEN POPEYE'S RUNS OUT OF CHICKEN FFS).
    Now isn't that a fun idea?

    Let's actually look at the wording of the law.

    "(a) 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."

    Wait, coerce? COERCE? TITS OR GTFO would be in violation of federal law. I wish I was joking -- I am not.
    Intimidation, coercion, what the fuck? These are not things that are illegal to do in person. There are circumstances that MAKE them illegal, but let's say you're talking to your significant other and trying to talk them into sex even though they're kinda tired.
    Nothing wrong about that at all.
    Now, this law passes. Now repeat the above, but via some sort of electronic means. You are now attempting to coerce -- perhaps even intimidate would be able to be used, it depends on how Wymyn's-Lib the judge is (ZOMGS SEX IS INNATELY ABOUT VIOLENCE AND DOMINANCE AND ABUSE bitch please) -- and you're in violation of the Illustrious Idiot Sanchez of the glorious state of Cali-less-free-than-the-rest-of-the-country-fornia.

  • by RogueWarrior65 (678876) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @06:41PM (#27839821)

    Figures a twit like Sanchez would pull something like this after engineering her own election. But I digress.

    To blame a blog for Megan Meier's death is no different than blaming a bar owned for a drunk driver's death. Nobody forced her to read it. Nobody forced her to keep reading it. Quite frankly, I blame the parents for being that frackin' clueless about their daughter.

    But as with most far-reaching legislation, protecting the poster-child is not the goal. The goal is to increase power and control over people. With gun-control, "protecting the innocent children" is the misdirection when the real goal is all out disarming of the people who will then be easily controlled. The Nazi's first started with registration. Once everyone dutifully followed the law and registered, they knew exactly where they were and who had them so they could confiscate them once private ownership of guns was outlawed. Remember, boys and girls, Adolf Hitler was ELECTED by the people of Germany. There wasn't a coup or similar blunt tactic. Witness Hugo Chavez cleverly guaranteeing that he will be in power for life. "Oh, but they'll just vote him out." Yeah right. In recent memory, there were cases of opposition votes against dictators being thrown in the trash. "Look! He won by a landslide." "What are all these ballots in this warehouse?" *blam* "Unidentified opposition supporters were horribly burned to death in a warehouse fire. The fire is reported to have been due to natural causes."

    Here we have a bill that purports to protect the children yet has the power to imprison ANY speech 'they' (that would be the royal 'they') deem dangerous or subversive. The sheep will say "oh, that's good idea...we have to keep another Megan Meier from happening." And then they'll find themselves dragged off in the middle of the night to a gulag because they spoke ill of Obama and years later they will wonder how it all happened. (source: a relative who grew up in Stalinist Russia and witnessed it firsthand).

    If nothing else, remember this: The Second Amendment is the last hope for protecting all of the others.

  • by AK Marc (707885) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @07:40PM (#27840361)
    It isn't a lie, it is on the books.

    I didn't say it wasn't on the books. I called you a liar for the characterization.

    So if you suspect a food processor of having poor cleanliness standards based on worker comments but they won't let you enter to definately prove it then they can prosecute you for slandering an inaminate object?

    You are an idiot. They can't prosecute you for "slander" because you suspect poor cleanliness. You'd have to say something. And, based on the article linked, what you say has to be provably false. If they want to take you to court over it, then they must prove you made a factual statement that was demonstably false. So you'll get your chance to go in and inspect it, or they can't charge you. Furthermore, it's only for false statements. "I've heard that it's a horrible place and the food is all poisoned" is not an inaccurate statement, and thus is legal. "I believe they make food that is bad for you" is also a true statement, and thus wouldn't be a problem.

    It is unreasonable to give "rights" to an inaminate object.

    The object doesn't have rights. The person that is the owner of that object does. The law does nothing more than say that it is essentially slander against Bob to say "Bob's hot dogs are 50% dog poop." The hot dogs don't get to vote, or serve on juries or have any rights at all. It just expands slander to include statements that would affect one's livelihood directly, even if not made specifically about the person themselves.
  • by Psmylie (169236) * on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @08:38AM (#27844751) Homepage

    It's easier, better, and more effective in both the long and short run to world-proof a child than it is to child-proof the world. I agree with you 100%.

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