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Bill Would Declare Your Blog a Weapon 780

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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  • Only way to respond (Score:3, Informative)

    by Locke2005 ( 849178 ) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @01:50PM (#27833983)
    Let me be the first to say "Fuck you, Linda Sanchez! Fuck you and the horse you rode in on!" There - does that meet your definition of severe, repeated, and hostile speech, you dumb bitch!
  • by cagrin ( 146191 ) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @02:16PM (#27834525) Homepage Journal

    "Freedom is the right to tell people what they do not want to hear." - George Orwell

  • by ewenix ( 702589 ) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @02:22PM (#27834647) Journal

    (2) Youth who create Internet content and use social networking sites are more likely to be targets of cyberbullying.

    This is like saying children who go to the aquatic center are more likely to be pushed into the pool.

    Hey, here's a thought! Don't let these "children ages 2 to 17" roam the internet unsupervised!

    This is the kind of stupidity you get when "everybody is a winner" and you go miles out of your way to make sure all the kids "feel good."

  • by stewbacca ( 1033764 ) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @02:36PM (#27834893)
    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.
  • by vlm ( 69642 ) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @03:18PM (#27835719)

    Microsoft isn't the government

    You must not be from around these parts... We've merged our government and multinational corporations together. There is no separation. Otherwise known as Fascism or Corporatism.

    Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power. []

  • by dwiget001 ( 1073738 ) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @03:19PM (#27835741)

    Actually, you are almost correct.

    The U.S. President swears to "...preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States...."

    Whereas Senators, Representatives and other Federal officials (not judges) only swear to "... support and defend the Constitution of the United States...."

    So, of the above mentioned office holders, only the President swears to "protect" the Constitution.

    And frankly, from what I have seen since I attained voting age 29 years ago, Senators and Representatives don't really give a crap if the laws they pass could pass Constitutional muster or not. If the majority of them did care, probably more than 3/4ths of the laws passed in the last, roughly, 80 years, would have not been passed by either the House or Senate.

  • by Geoffrey.landis ( 926948 ) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @03:25PM (#27835851) Homepage

    Um you might be wrong, unfortunately. Obama has four justices that will rubber stamp anything he signs...

    Uh, this is a bizarrely weird thing to say. You're talking about a supreme court of which all but two justices were appointed by Ford, Reagan, or Bush; and many of whom have been on the court since Obama was a high school student. There's no reason to particularly think why they would "rubber stamp anything he signs." Anything? Huh what?

  • by mea37 ( 1201159 ) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @03:28PM (#27835941)

    To be clear, I've not formed an opinion one way or the other as to the merits of this bill. I'm inclined to think it's more bad than good; an emotionally-driven response to a specific case that probably casts to wide a net to make prosecuting specific actions "easier". BUT, your question was why defamation laws wouldn't arleady apply. Well...

    It would be libel rather than slander. But judging from the reference to the Maier case, it seems this law is meant to address cases where libel can't be applied. (Prosecutors in that case struggled to find an applicable law, and eventually decided to abuse an old anti-hacking law. They got mixed results and IMO did considerable harm while failing to address the core issue. But that's another discussion...)

    An example of the difference: I can pretty much make a libel suit impossible by clearly framing every statement I make as my opinion, rather than as fact. As far as I can tell, this bill doesn't appear to care whether the speech was presented as fact or opinion.

    Libel is about the harm done to the reputation of the speech's subject (indirect harm due to the effect of the speech on third parties). This bill is about the harm done to the emotional state of the speech's subject (direct harm; the effect of the speech on the subject).

  • by Rolgar ( 556636 ) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @04:05PM (#27836661)

    On the most controversial cases (those decided 5-4), there are 4 justices that always side with the Democrats, Souter, Stevens, Ginsberg and Breyer. Three of those will probably retire in the next year or two, and now because they've been waiting for a Democrat to come to power so they could be replaced with somebody like themselves, Souter has already retired, Ginsberg has cancer, and Stevens is 89. Breyer was appointed by Clinton, and probably would be renominated by Obama if that had to be done periodically.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @04:08PM (#27836697)

    The headline was written by kdawson. He has an obvious agenda to push. What do you expect?

  • by coolsnowmen ( 695297 ) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @04:09PM (#27836711)

    Intrigued, I went and read that law.

    It actually says that it is criminal to lie about the sandwich in an effort to disrupt the trade of said sandwich.

    You can insult it, if it is true. []

    It is unlawful for any person...knowingly to make any materially false statement, for the purpose of maintaining prices or establishing higher prices for the same, or for the purpose of limiting or diminishing the quantity thereof available for market, or for the purpose of procuring, or aiding in procuring, or establishing, or maintaining a monopoly in such articles or products, or for the purpose of in any manner restraining trade, any fruits, vegetables, grain, meats, or other articles or products ordinarily grown, raised, produced, or used in any manner or to any extent as food for human beings or for domestic animals.

    I think this might make a food critic's job harder, but that is ok because their job is too damn easy anyways.

  • terrible idea (Score:3, Informative)

    first, Congress shall make no law [...] abridging the freedom of speech [...].

    Severe, repeated, and/or hostile speech is free.

    Sorry congress, You shall make NO LAW ABRIDGING THE FREEDOM OF SPEECH!

  • by Maximum Prophet ( 716608 ) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @07:39PM (#27839789)

    Actually I was paraphrasing from the TV series "Dinosaurs". [] In that episode, the dinosaurs tried to remove everything from TV that was offensive to anyone and someone opined that he was offended by the name "Sue", so a the newscasters could no longer call each other by name.

"The number of Unix installations has grown to 10, with more expected." -- The Unix Programmer's Manual, 2nd Edition, June, 1972