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Texas Teen Arrested Under New Online Harassment Law 494

Posted by kdawson
from the play-nice-now dept.
SpaceGhost sends in a story from San Antonio, TX: "Police have arrested a 16-year-old girl on charges of harassment under a new Texas law that took effect September 1, 2009. H.B. 2003 says a person commits a third degree felony if the person posts one or more messages on a social networking site with the intent to harm, defraud, intimidate or threaten another person. Police say the harassment went on for a few months and involved a dispute over a boy. ... Some people expect legal challenges to the constitutionality of the new Internet law.' The law is evidently a response to the Lori Drew case.
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Texas Teen Arrested Under New Online Harassment Law

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  • Your Honor! (Score:5, Funny)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday October 16, 2009 @10:19AM (#29768307) Journal
    "I respectfully submit that the defendant is a Meanie-Head in the first degree!"

    "My client wishes the court to know that the witness, in fact, 'started it'."
    • by Yvan256 (722131) on Friday October 16, 2009 @10:24AM (#29768355) Homepage Journal

      Court room typist: How do you spell "DooDoo Head"?

      • Re:Your Honor! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Moryath (553296) on Friday October 16, 2009 @10:31AM (#29768439)

        Was that a transcript from the case or a transcript from the latest session of Congress?

        Seriously though... any time speech is regulated, there's a problem. Yes, the Supreme Court has ruled that the right to Free Speech is not absolute, but the prosecution of a girl for calling another girl names over a dispute over a boy? A matter for parents and possibly high school guidance counselors, or on the rare outside case for a psychiatrist, but not for the courts.

        • Re:Your Honor! (Score:5, Interesting)

          by macbeth66 (204889) on Friday October 16, 2009 @10:55AM (#29768759)

          Sure it is. That way, if it can't be resolved through the means you suggested, it goes to court. Not everything goes to court, sometimes people talk to each and resolve their differences. But, when you can't, you let the court decide. But, you have to give the courts some teeth.

          These are the same kinds of laws that give people recourse for harassment and stalking. Something that the courts could nothing about until just recently. At least, in the USA.

          • Re:Your Honor! (Score:5, Insightful)

            by madpansy (1410973) on Friday October 16, 2009 @11:59AM (#29769539)
            There's already recourse for harassment or stalking. It's called a restraining order. I see no reason why we need special laws to guard against "special" cases like online social networks. I recall reading about a person being charged with violating a restraining order for "poking" someone on Facebook, so it appears at least one court understands how old laws continue to apply as society changes.
          • Re:Your Honor! (Score:5, Insightful)

            by jhfry (829244) on Friday October 16, 2009 @12:05PM (#29769597)

            Sure they could... they would issue a restraining order, which if violated could result in criminal charges.

            This law is unnecessary and open to abuse, the old system of filing a complaint, getting the courts to issue a restraining order, and daring your enemy to violate the order so that they can get busted is much more fun... and more fair too.

            Essentially the old system said "Stop it, I'm serious and I have the law on my side"... the new system will punish harassers without giving them a warning to stop first. There are many circumstances where a harasser might not realize that things have reached the point where the harassed is feeling harassed. Especially in the case of children, where the child may be OK, but the parents see some kid saying mean things about their "baby" and they want retribution... even when their "little angel" has already laughed it off.

        • Re:Your Honor! (Score:5, Insightful)

          A matter for parents and possibly high school guidance counselors, or on the rare outside case for a psychiatrist, but not for the courts.

          This is where you are wrong. An entire generation or more has been raised to believe in its own innate and unearned importance, and bolstered with a solid and unshakable faith in its responsibility-less intrinsic rights. They truly believe that they are entitled to do whatsoever they please, whenever they please to, and that they are educated and savvy enough to inject their opinions in any arena they see fit, and how dare anyone presume to tell them otherwise. Their rights are absolute at all times, without qualification of any kind.

          If you disagree with them, or are simply in their way, they're not going to engage in productive discussion or debate. That would imply that you are somehow their equal. Instead, they will call upon the full force of the great edifice of the Law, which exists solely to defend their inalienable right to _make_ the world bend to their will. As free, intelligent and independent citizens, they have every right to bring the full force of the State to bear in crushing you and your impudent challenges to their unique and inestimable way of life.

          • Re:Your Honor! (Score:5, Interesting)

            by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@@@gmail...com> on Friday October 16, 2009 @12:17PM (#29769741) Journal

            Reminds me of a bit from one of my favorite movies [imdb.com] "You sharpen the human appetite to the point where it can split atoms with its desire; you build egos the size of cathedrals; fiber-optically connect the world to every eager impulse; grease even the dullest dreams with these dollar-green, gold-plated fantasies, until every human becomes an aspiring emperor, becomes his own God... and where can you go from there?"

            You mix the combination of giant egos with Gabriel's Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory [tri-bit.com] and you end up with some seriously large douches. But the problem with laws like this is they ALWAYS get abused. Look at the 6 year old [ananova.com] who was suspended and looking at being sent to a school for juvenile offenders for bring his cub scout multi-tool to school to eat lunch with. Laws like this will be badly abused, and the last thing we need is one of the last bastions of truly free speech turning into a place where you can't speak your mind for fear of getting arrested or sued. I for one would rather have free speech than some bureaucrat deciding whether or not something I said on a forum could take away my freedom, wouldn't you?

            • Re:Your Honor! (Score:4, Interesting)

              by shambalagoon (714768) on Friday October 16, 2009 @01:11PM (#29770385) Homepage
              You know, I think we could go a long way towards encouraging decent behavior if people were granted the right to slap people who insult or offend them. Think about it. Right now you can badger, harrass, defame, verbally abuse, and insult people with impunity. I realize there's libel laws but that's a huge and long endeavor, very much separated from the immediate situation. It's perfectly legal to be a complete douche and make someone's life a miserable hell and feel invulnerable because the victim can't touch you.

              So take away that immunity. If you insult and mouth off to someone, they can slap you, as hard as they want, as many times as they want, and it's legal. People would think twice before opening their mouth and letting loose with a stream of vitriol and verbal abuse if there was the possibility of an immediate response.

              It's behaviorism at its simplest. It's how the entire natural world works. Every social animal tests their boundaries, and if they go too far, they get bit. That's how boundaries get set. Our laws have created a consequence-free outlet for verbal abuse that is generating some truly out-of-control people.
              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by freeweed (309734)

                If you insult and mouth off to someone, they can slap you, as hard as they want, as many times as they want, and it's legal.

                Great!

                I find your comment rather offensive and an insult to my way of thinking. Allow me to commence slapping you're bruised and bleeding, and you go down in an unconscious heap.

                What?

                Note: the secret here, is that insult and offense is 100% in the eyes and ears of the receiver. If you can't see where the problem lies here...

          • Translation: (Score:5, Insightful)

            by nimbius (983462) on Friday October 16, 2009 @12:27PM (#29769875) Homepage
            "these dag-blasted kiddies think they know it all! and they think theyre soooo special! Sometimes they have the gall to do weird things i dont approve of and they dont want to listen to my complaining! these confounded kids call the sheriff when theres a disagreement instead of just fighting like i did back when i was a kid! I live in a peppridge farm commercial where nobody needs the police and you only call the sheriff when mountain justice wont work! "

            mod parent down...just becuse you use big words doesnt mean you suddenly become insightful.
          • Re:Your Honor! (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Mendoksou (1480261) on Friday October 16, 2009 @01:28PM (#29770603)

            ...they are educated and savvy enough to inject their opinions in any arena they see fit, and how dare anyone presume to tell them otherwise.

            You mean like passing judgment on an entire generation? Don't for a second pretend that ego is a phenomena new to this generation. The simple fact is that every older generation in history has felt that the next generation was presumptuous and rude, and all too full of themselves. But what does that have to do with the law?

            Young people will be immature, and, since it is a forum on which they are a disproportional demographic, will be the majority of the forum trolls and flame-baiters and haters out there, and thus are most likely to get caught under this law (yes, I know the law doesn't cover trolling, but the trolls mentality is much closer producing threats than is the average mature person's). This does not change the fact that classifying threats online as illegal breaks with free speech precedent. Free speech does not include threats ONLY if it is backed by the threat of imminent violence, or if it is defamation (ok, most trolls fit here, but that's a civil matter, not a felony), or if it incites to riot. Threatening online matches none of these; no threat is imminent, as I'd have to get up, drive to your house, and THEN do whatever I said (in which case the prosecutable act is the physical one, the speech is peripheral and can only be evidence of forethought and intent, not a crime itself). So no, we are not claiming "responsibility-less intrinsic rights;" we are merely pointing out that the same rights that we enjoy elsewhere also should apply online.

          • Re:Your Honor! (Score:5, Interesting)

            by BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) on Friday October 16, 2009 @02:03PM (#29771005) Homepage Journal

            An entire generation or more has been raised to believe in its own innate and unearned importance...

            That is quite a sweeping generalization. I am not sure which generation you are referring to, but if it is my own (I am 23) I would be inclined to disagree with you via a caveat. I will agree that, in general, there are quite a few folks who fit the description that you just posted. Nonetheless, I would caveat that there are some of us, in every generation (not just my own) that know without a doubt that we do not have unlimited entitlement and rights. There are even some of us that know that the Law is not an institution to be used for the abuse of personal gain. In fact, some of us, in every generation, outright abhor the strange exponential increase in the complexity of the Law in general.

            So, in principle, I agree that there are quite a few folk out there that think the way you mentioned, using the term, 'an entire generation' really does disrespect those of us that try to remain rational, calm, pragmatic, and realistic. Please, don't lump entire groups of people together as if we are all just walking stereotypes to be typified into a particular Aristotelian category. There are always shades of gray.

          • Re:Your Honor! (Score:4, Insightful)

            by cptdondo (59460) on Friday October 16, 2009 @02:45PM (#29771509) Journal

            An entire generation or more has been raised to believe in its own innate and unearned importance, and bolstered with a solid and unshakable faith in its responsibility-less intrinsic rights. They truly believe that they are entitled to do whatsoever they please, whenever they please to, and that they are educated and savvy enough to inject their opinions in any arena they see fit, and how dare anyone presume to tell them otherwise. Their rights are absolute at all times, without qualification of any kind.

            You know, I'm getting a bit tired of this. It's the same crap that's been heaped on the younger generation for ages. I remember it when I was a kid.

            Kids today by and large are more responsible, if anything, than the kids in my generation were. They are under more pressure, in a more dangerous environment, than we were and they're dealing with it pretty well.

            There seems to be this bizarre "whack a mole" approach to dealing with kids... Let them do what they want, but once in a while take a kid out back and shoot him/her for being a kid as an example.

            No wonder the kids today are confused.

            They've been taught really good social skills, conflict resolution, sharing in school, and then they get hammered when they do something wrong.

            Some of the grownups need to attend those social skills classes instead of their kids.

        • Re:Your Honor! (Score:4, Interesting)

          by j_kenpo (571930) on Friday October 16, 2009 @12:58PM (#29770255)

          You read that article and think "Name calling? The police state is violating that persons Freedom of Speech, thats a problem". I read that, see that its from Somerset, Tx, and I think "thats probably gang related or some cracked out trailer trash and they threatened to rape and kill that girl. Thats a problem".

          In both cases, none of us knows the specifics of the case, and are both talking out our asses. And even RTFA, given the PD cheifs in the San Antonio areas notoriety for spewing lines of BS, we won't in the immediate future.

    • by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) on Friday October 16, 2009 @10:43AM (#29768591)
      "Enough! By the power vested in me by the State of My Mom's Dining Table, I sentence you to both... Kiss each other for 5 seconds!"
      • Try this (Score:3, Funny)

        by AliasMarlowe (1042386)
        Pick a social networking site, and make a public announcement on your "wall" (or whatever they call it) as follows:

        "Anyone who reads this need not necessarily feel neither unoffended nor unharassed notwithstanding their lack of failure to misconstrue its import."

        It's plain English, plainly stated, and clear enough to about 1% of the population. Obviously, it would intimidate the 99% of Americans who cannot parse or comprehend it, and many of them would feel both offended and harassed as well as insulted
    • Re:Your Honor! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Em Emalb (452530) <ememalb AT gmail DOT com> on Friday October 16, 2009 @10:59AM (#29768789) Homepage Journal

      I miss the days when disputes were settled on the playground after school. *sigh*

      Seemed a much simpler time, didn't it?

      • Re:Your Honor! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday October 16, 2009 @11:26AM (#29769129) Journal
        Depends on whether you were the stronger or the weaker of the disputing parties, I suspect...
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Plunky (929104)

          Depends on whether you were the stronger or the weaker of the disputing parties, I suspect...

          Respect can be given to a weaker person who, knowing they were weaker, went up against you for the principle. The ninny who goes and calls their dad to smack you down just proves that their dad is bigger than you and will never get any respect. Calling law enforcement is the same, its not about who is right and wrong but if you can carry your head high amongst your peers. It doesn't have to be about violence in the

          • Re:Your Honor! (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Wildclaw (15718) on Friday October 16, 2009 @12:54PM (#29770215)

            And what about all those who don't want to fight, not because they are weak, but because they don't like fighting. Of course, you don't have an answer to that. Because your attitude stinks of the fighter mentality. Your choice of words like "proving yourself" is very revealing.

            It is people like you who encourage young people to fight that is the problem. Perpetuating and encouraging violence in society is not a good solution.

            And yes, I have stood up for myself, but I will never be proud of it, and I will not respect those who I stood up to. Violence is not something to be respected for. At best it is a last resort when other things didn't work. But when kids are forced to resort to violence because of the inaction of adults, then it is a failure of the adults.

            • Re:Your Honor! (Score:5, Interesting)

              by meringuoid (568297) on Friday October 16, 2009 @02:24PM (#29771271)
              And what about all those who don't want to fight, not because they are weak, but because they don't like fighting.

              The existence of people like that endangers the whole system whereby respect and status are established by means of violence. Consider: an alpha male in the schoolyard has established his position against all rivals by means of fights. He now becomes aware of a subculture that does not respect him for this - they may fear him, but they don't admire him. These people are called 'nerds' and they admire and respect intellectual accomplishment. Or a large collection of Warhammer 40K figures. Either way, they neither admire nor respect the willingness or ability to engage in physical fights. Indeed, they openly disdain it.

              This completely undermines his position! This alpha male demands the respect due to him for being so masculine and violent! And so he expresses himself in the only way he knows how: he beats up nerds until he has established to the satisfaction of his peers that he will not tolerate disrespect from inferiors of zero status, from people who have no interest in violence at all.

              Looking back on it from a distance of fifteen years or so it's a fascinating sociological study. Thank fuck I'm no longer living in it.

        • Re:Your Honor! (Score:4, Interesting)

          by NtroP (649992) on Friday October 16, 2009 @12:48PM (#29770113)

          Depends on whether you were the stronger or the weaker of the disputing parties, I suspect...

          Actually, I disagree. I realize in this oh-so-civilized and politically-correct world I'm a bit of a neanderthal, but as the weaker one in may confrontations growing up, there was a certain finality and satisfaction in just facing your tormentor or opponent and having it out. Many times I was left with the split lip or black eye, but was able to walk away knowing that I'd at least defended my honor. As stupid as it sounds, things were never left to fester long enough to get to Columbine-proportions let alone anything that would be considered a severe beating.

          I didn't fight often, but that was because I learned very quickly that my actions had consequences. I learned that it can sometimes hurt as much to punch someone as to get punched. I also learned that to avoid a physical confrontation, I needed to work on my diplomacy and many times my over-all prick-titude.

          Kids these days barely get the chance to use harsh-language against each other before an adult steps in. They see people on TV and in the movies getting in horrific fights that would quickly render a real person unconscious or dead, getting right back up again, ready for more. They've never experienced the fear and pain of defeat, let alone the fear and pain of victory. Without an early outlet for small disagreements some people bottle it up until they explode. Often, they just commit suicide, but sometimes they take the small hurts way too far, grab a gun and kill someone. We can sit on the outside, wring our hands and say "Why would someone kill someone else over a little thing like that?" Well, it's not a little thing when you spend your whole life feeling powerless.

          When I was a kid you'd never hear about someone shooting up their school. Why? For one thing, half the pickup trucks in the high school parking lot had a rifle in the back window. The kids actually hunted with them and had first-hand knowledge of the damage they did to flesh and what death and blood smells like. They'd never reach for a gun in a fight. They'd lose hand-to-hand first. Second, there was a spot, right off school grounds, that was the de facto fighting spot. You knew, when you were called out where to be and at what time.

          If you chose not to show up, you lost and were dishonored. If you showed up, defeated your opponent, and then proceeded to beat him while he was down, you were considered a loser, which was a bigger dishonor that not showing up. If you lost, at least it was over and you were respected for standing up for yourself. The strange part about that was, after the first time a big bully beat a smaller kid there, it rarely happened again. The big bully didn't get near the accolades they'd envisioned after beating up on a weaker kid in full public view of their classmates. In fact, it was usually the weaker kid who came out better in the eyes of their peers. Of course, if you didn't show up you weren't lauded for your passivity, you were scorned for not being willing to stand up for yourself. No one had any respect for someone who wouldn't stand up for themselves (or their girlfriends more often than not).

          I love when I hear naive people say "violence doesn't solve anything". Bullshit. Violence almost always solves the problem, one way or the other. It just may not be the best way to solve the problem. But when you've never known real violence, never dealt real violence, it all sort of becomes unreal. When you grow up your whole life being told that pacifism is so noble and everything can be resolved with talking and reason you lose touch with the grim, gritty reality that comes with getting that bloody nose. So when you find yourself in a situation when the other party won't just accept your reason and when you can't find any adults/officials to come to your rescue and make the other party see reason, your sense of frustration grows to the point where the violence you've never experienced takes on a seductive kind of

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            This is so unbelievably redneck, I'm at a loss for words. That attitude is something out of the 50's or earlier.
            Taught your kids, huh? Like, that violence solves things. You really think they heard that, warn once warn twice? No what they heard was Dad will back us up if we kick the crap out of someone. Whether that someone had it coming due to their over-all stupidity or not.
            And, btw, I was never in a fight in high school. Never had a cause and it wasn't because I was intimidating physically. I just h

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            To this day the most confident, rational, and competent people I know are the kids I grew up with which got their asses kicked across a parking lot at least once during middle school or high school. Every single one of them got in some good blows themselves and could sit there afterword bleeding out the nose or mouth smiling that they at least had a chance to 'shut that guy up' who wouldn't lay off of of them. It's completely anecdotal, but I have to say that I agree with what you posted in every respect. T
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by IRoll11!s (1609859)
            This is all very nice, but if you haven't noticed it's impossible to punch someone over the internet, which is what the article is about.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by AndersOSU (873247)

            Your romanticization of violence sort of falls apart when you stop looking at flukes like Columbine where middle class disaffected teenagers have never experienced violence and start looking at the every day violence in the inner city. Kids don't get shot or stabbed downtown because they've been bottling it up too long.

      • by Shakrai (717556)

        I miss the days when disputes were settled on the playground after school. *sigh*

        I miss the days when society was sensible. I'm not that old but when I went to school we had a rifle shooting club on campus, complete with indoor and outdoor shooting ranges. It wasn't regarded as unusual if students carried pocket knives. Nowadays they suspend kids for having toy guns in their backpacks or pocket knives in their car. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.....

  • start them early (Score:4, Insightful)

    by CaptainNerdCave (982411) on Friday October 16, 2009 @10:22AM (#29768343)
    we'd better get these young people used to the idea that everyone is a criminal, no sense in letting them think they ever were or ever could be innocent. after all, there's no way to rule law-abiding citizens.
    • by DrLang21 (900992)
      Online harassment is still harassment in general, which has been, rightfully so in my opinion, illegal for a while. The real question is, why does this need a special law to be prosecuted? How is online harassment any different in it's range of severity from harassment anywhere else?
  • Idiocracy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 16, 2009 @10:24AM (#29768359)

    Obviously Texas lawmakers are unfamiliar with the legal principle "Sticks and stones make break my bones, but words will never hurt me!" If I post online that Cmdr Taco is a goat fucker, have I really "harmed" him or his reputation in any way? It's not slander unless a reasonable person would believe it to be true, and no rational person believes Taco actually dates outside his own species (unlike Captain Kirk).

    • by Talderas (1212466) on Friday October 16, 2009 @10:30AM (#29768431)

      If I post online that Cmdr Taco is a goat fucker, have I really "harmed" him or his reputation in any way? It's not slander unless a reasonable person would believe it to be true, and no rational person believes Taco actually dates outside his own species (unlike Captain Kirk).

      Yet another reason that Captain Picard is the superior Captain compared to Captain Kirk, Goat Fucker.

      • Yet another reason that Captain Picard is the superior Captain compared to Captain Kirk, Goat Fucker.

        Meh! Kirk has a goat in every port. Who does Picard have to come home to?

    • by gpronger (1142181) on Friday October 16, 2009 @10:48AM (#29768643) Journal
      I happen to know that the Commander's relationship with farm animals is a completely enlightened and fulfilling one for all parties involved. It's narrowed minded individuals like yourself which sullies these otherwise warm and positive relationships. Kirk on the other-hand was clearly a sexist (as was the writers which always wrote into the universe aliens which had all the necessary parts to get him hot and bothered).

      However, unlike your comment and mine, its easy to differentiate "reality". What has happened on in these cases that they are attempting to address is that the attack on the individual is such that a peer does believe the tripe. At the age we're talking about, both males and females, many are particularly vulnerable. Their friends and what their peers think of them is massively important.

      whether we can legislate politeness is another matter. I don't believe that teens are any more villainous than before, its more that the internet allows a wider audience to attack while the anonymity makes it more difficult to defend oneself (though I would at the same time believe that net anonymity is massively important, though I'll post this, non-anonymously).
    • by Jeian (409916)

      Words don't hurt people, but they do cause some people to hurt themselves.

      Whether that should be illegal, in real life or online, is the question.

  • SHITCOCK! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by e2d2 (115622) on Friday October 16, 2009 @10:25AM (#29768367)

    There's a big difference between saying "This person, IMHO, is an asshole" and "I'm gonna punch your face until you bleed from the asshole" (just an example, I have never ever said such horrendous things. I'm appalled that you would take me for that kind of person you fucking piece of shit! I'LL KILL YOU!)

    But seriously, I tell my kid and other kids in my family - don't say anything you wouldn't say in person. And if you threaten someone in person, well that's assault.

    People need to learn that being a SHITCOCK Internet Fuckwad is unacceptable. People also need to grow thicker skin, but when it truly hurts someone it's time to stop.

    • Re:SHITCOCK! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Locke2005 (849178) on Friday October 16, 2009 @10:32AM (#29768455)
      Agreed, actual threats of physical violence SHOULD be unlawful,,, but if you are threatening to kill someone, it doesn't really matter whether or not you are doing it online, does it? Making a law that ONLY applies to online behavior is assinine -- could she have printed the same statements out on paper and gotten away with it? Why is publishing them online any different?
      • Bullseye. Harassment is harassment, regardless of the medium used. Without knowing the details of the case (not like I'd read the article, but someone else here mentioned that details weren't released anyway), it's impossible to make a judgment about whether or not this really is harassment. If it was just some girl calling her classmate a bitch, then that's called high school. If it's a girl repeatedly posting false or misleading information with the intent to cause harm, then that's illegal, no matter how
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Ephemeriis (315124)

        Agreed, actual threats of physical violence SHOULD be unlawful,,, but if you are threatening to kill someone, it doesn't really matter whether or not you are doing it online, does it? Making a law that ONLY applies to online behavior is assinine -- could she have printed the same statements out on paper and gotten away with it? Why is publishing them online any different?

        That's my big problem with these laws.

        We already have harassment/stalking/whatever laws on the books. If I punch you in the face, it's assault. It doesn't matter if I do it at school, or at the local GameStop, or at a grocery store. We don't need special laws for each building in the nation - we just say "this is assault."

        Likewise, if I track your every movement for a week, snap pictures of you, film video of you, peek in your windows - it's stalking. Doesn't much matter if I'm doing it with a 35mm or a

  • ...make bad laws.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Moryath (553296)

      And the necessary corrolary: Easy cases also make bad law.

      "Easy" cases make bad law because they allow for bad decisions - "the law says one thing, but Mr. Greasy-Haired Used Car Salesman is so obviously running a dishonest business..."

      "Hard" cases make bad law because they get decided on a very narrow point of law and set of facts, but then a thousand greasy shysters (er... "lawyers") cite them as precedent for cases that have almost no similarity at all.

      In fact, the current way our system is cooked up, th

  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@nOspAM.gmail.com> on Friday October 16, 2009 @10:26AM (#29768381) Journal
    Apparently Texas' penal code reads for felonies of the third degree [state.tx.us]:

    12.34. THIRD DEGREE FELONY PUNISHMENT. (a) An individual adjudged guilty of a felony of the third degree shall be punished by imprisonment in the institutional division for any term of not more than 10 years or less than 2 years.

    (b) In addition to imprisonment, an individual adjudged guilty of a felony of the third degree may be punished by a fine not to exceed $10,000.

    Of course, she's a minor being 16 so the punishment will most likely be up to the judge and expunged at age 18 but for you adults who like to poke and prod people online ... better think twice in states where these kind of laws are enforced lest you target the wrong person.

  • BEHOLD! (Score:4, Funny)

    by j00r0m4nc3r (959816) on Friday October 16, 2009 @10:30AM (#29768425)
    Can of worms, I dub thee COLOSUS!
  • I'm not so sure laws needed to be made for something that amounts to name calling. If the name calling extends to harassment we already have laws in place.

    The only fix to this problem is proper parrenting and teaching kids how to respect and really communicate with one another. Even removing anonymity doesn't fix this problem (and I am completely against any attempt to remove it). I am aware that Anecdotes aren't evidence but I've been "bullied" online (if you want to call it that) by girls who went to t

  • Good Idea (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Bagellord (1656577) on Friday October 16, 2009 @10:38AM (#29768521)
    I honestly think this is a good law. Case in point: a kid in my little brother's class created a myspace page using my brother's name and picture and put some truly disturbing stuff on there. We only found out about it because one of his classmates texted him asking about it. The headmaster of our school almost expelled him over it. This is a very serious thing. It can cause emotional damage to the victim, and can ruin their reputation. The kid who did it sent all kinds of rude and nasty messages to people who saw my brother's page and sent friend requests. This law is a good idea.
  • by onyxruby (118189) <onyxruby@[ ]cast.net ['com' in gap]> on Friday October 16, 2009 @10:39AM (#29768533)
    Harassment online should be no different than harassment offline. If I send an email threating to break someone's leg how is that any different than a message over the phone or in person? Why do people make a big deal that otherwise illegal behavior is somehow legal online? Intimidation, coercion and other forms of threatening behavior are all readily accepted as illegal offline, this case has absolutely no defense in the first amendment (and I'm usually the one defending it).
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Aladrin (926209)

      This wasn't 'a threat to harm', the message itself -is- the harm.

      People get up in arms about it because it's -really- hard to make text do actual harm.

      We don't have have -any- actual information about the case, so argument for either side are completely pointless right now.

  • by Jiro (131519) on Friday October 16, 2009 @10:40AM (#29768543)
    If you go to the article, the article explains:

    <i>It seems the goal of the new law was to discourage using the name or persona of another person to create a Web page.</i>

    If she really did this, she should be punished. Now, there's a good point that a felony charge may be too strict and existing laws about libel and false light should cover it (though there could be loopholes that keep it from doing so), but the general idea that we shouldn't tolerate this behavior is pretty sensible. Contrary to popular belief, trolling isn't actually good, and the fact that you can get away with it doesn't mean you should get away with it. Harassment is wrong, and I have no problem with the law punishing it.

    (And for the Slashdotter who said "she wouldn't be charged with a felony if this was done in person", exactly how do you put up a web page under someone else's name in person?)
    • by urulokion (597607)

      The given intent of a law is irrelevant, for the most part, to police and prosecutors. They will prosecute you based on the wording of the law. And they'll bend the law to the breaking point and beyond if they want to nail you (Lori Drew case from California).

    • by Jaysyn (203771)

      That's identity theft, we already have laws for this. Texas is stupid if they think they need to make a separate set of laws for the internet.

  • LOL (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jafiwam (310805)

    third degree felony if the person posts one or more messages on a social networking site with the intent to harm, defraud, intimidate or threaten another person

    LOL, by that standard, the entire fucking state of Texas should be arrested for the shit I see them say every day about the President. Don't mess with Texas!*

    *And by "mess" we mean to consider a democratically and validly elected official office legitimate, and especially if you know, he ain't your kind of bigot.

  • Why punish based on medium rather than content? Is it any different from posting paper threatening messages on a school bulletin board? Again, lawmakers think Internet has some scary magic powers rather than being a new communication medium for old humans.

  • by MikeRT (947531) on Friday October 16, 2009 @10:43AM (#29768595) Homepage
    Here's the text [state.tx.us]. Basically all it targets are people who harass others online assuming another person's identity. One girl creating a profile for another, where she claims to be a homosexual drug user who steals to support her habit would fall under this. Generic harassment doesn't. About the only thing that is far-reaching, and it's likely based on ignorance, is the "domain address" language which could be twisted by a prosecutor.

    Perhaps the law goes too far on the punishment side, but it doesn't prohibit any behavior which is protected by the first amendment. Only a moron would say "there are first amendment issues" since this law is little more than a double whammy on libel and slander.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by PitaBred (632671)
      So... slander and libel are somehow twice as bad online as they are otherwise? And we need a special law for this? Why?
  • by Interoperable (1651953) on Friday October 16, 2009 @10:45AM (#29768611)

    /. should try to get a volunteer prosecuted for violating a Term of Service in a hilarious manner. Try to get some free legal counsel for both sides from civil liberties group or from a law firm looking for publicity and then run the sham law suit as far as possible in the court system.

    I think it's critical to set precedent by addressing the issue directly rather than via an emotionally confused case. By the same token, I think it would be fun to run a few sham software licence related law suits through the courts. Come on! It'll be fun!

  • What she should have done is get her victim to sign up to some app with small print in the "Accept" opting in to the harassment emails. After all it worked for Toyota [slashdot.org].
  • by DrivingBear (931124) on Friday October 16, 2009 @10:51AM (#29768671)
    We should really look at the emotional/psychological reasons that these kids are attacking each other and come up with strategies for treating those issues rather than arresting children for mistakes they make online.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by NeutronCowboy (896098)

      That would require emotional stamina from the kids, involved parenting from the parents, toleration of lawsuit-generating situations by school officials... yeah right. I'm all for beating this particular drum until the cows come home, but I'm also not particularly confident that anything will actually happen.

  • harassment is not the same as trolling i hope.

    I can get to be a really nasty troll on craigslist messageboards, I don't threaten anyone, I just really snide with four letter words (really really snide and cuss like a drunken sailor)
  • socialnetdef (Score:5, Interesting)

    by muckracer (1204794) on Friday October 16, 2009 @11:16AM (#29769019)

    So what is the legal definition of a social networking site anyway. Is Slashdot a SNS?

  • by MarkvW (1037596) on Friday October 16, 2009 @11:48AM (#29769383)

    Will this law ever make it past the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals?

    It looks really overbroad. I can say something with the intent to harm you that is totally legal and absolutely protected by the First Amendment. I can say harmful things with the intent to harm your business interests (by advancing mine at your expense); I can say harmful things with the intent to harm your political interest (to get your sorry ass out of office); and I can say harmful things with the intent to harm your religious interest (because your religious influence is heretical).

    It also appears (from the lame summary and article) that truth is no defense. So, that if I harm you with the truth--I can go to prison.

    And that's only some ideas from the point of view of the POSTER.

    The social networking sites themselves are getting screwed over, here. What is the COMPELLING governmental reason for jacking up the criminal speech regulation on social networking sites and not on blogs and newspapers????? There is no compelling reason for such a limitation on free speech and my bet is that some lawyers are going to have an easy, fun, and lucrative time taking this law DOWNTOWN.

    Anyway, thanks very much to the Texas legislature for providing another money-stream to the lawyers. They'll be the only ones having fun with this dog of a law!

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