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Irish Legislator Proposes Law That Would Make Annoying People Online a Crime 114

An anonymous reader sends this report from TechDirt: Is Ireland looking to pass a law that would "outlaw ebooks and jail people for annoying others?" Well, no, not really, but that's the sort of unintended consequences that follow when laws are updated for the 21st century using little more than a word swap. Ireland has had long-standing laws against harassment via snail mail, telephones and (as of 2007) SMS messages. A 2014 report by the government's somewhat troublingly-named "Internet Content Governance Advisory Group" recommended updating this section of the law to cover email, social media and other internet-related transmissions. ... The broad language -- if read literally -- could make emailing an ebook to someone a criminal offense. Works of fiction are, by definition, false. ... It's the vestigial language from previous iterations of the law -- words meant to target scam artists and aggressive telemarketers -- that is problematic. Simply appending the words "electronic communications" to an old law doesn't address the perceived problem (cyberbullying is cited in the governance group's report). It just creates new problems.
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Irish Legislator Proposes Law That Would Make Annoying People Online a Crime

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  • ACs (Score:3, Informative)

    by courteaudotbiz ( 1191083 ) on Friday April 24, 2015 @09:58AM (#49545143) Homepage
    ACs become criminals. /., prepare your IP logs...
    • "Always trying to steal me lucky charms."

      • You are going to be the first one thrown in jail for that racist, stereotypical, commercial remark.

        • That sounds about as drastic as the US space program hitting a brick wall before it was ever conceived in 1964 over hospital fund raiser money that was wired from the north shore Lake Tahoe being stolen by the mob.

  • by NotDrWho ( 3543773 ) on Friday April 24, 2015 @09:59AM (#49545147)

    Aye, as long as I can still get piss drunk at the pub, beat me bitch wife, and spit on an Englishman, then I'm alright with it!

    • Aye, as long as I can still get piss drunk at the pub, beat me bitch wife, and spit on an Englishman, then I'm alright with it!

      Yes, no problem mate, just remember our (greetings from Greece fellow European) "anti-racism/discrimination" laws and make sure the "Englishman" is not some Muslim/Brown from who knows where, and he is not a homo... ah, wait, you can't spit on an Englishman.

  • by justcauseisjustthat ( 1150803 ) on Friday April 24, 2015 @09:59AM (#49545149)
    It's funny he's breaking his own law already!!!
    • by Anonymous Coward

      I find lawyers and politicians to be highly annoying...does this mean we can lock all of them up for life? Or better yet execute them all?

  • by Archangel Michael ( 180766 ) on Friday April 24, 2015 @10:02AM (#49545173) Journal

    The problem with our legal system are the things that often start with "There ought to be a law".

    No, there shouldn't be a law, because laws that can be abused, will be abused, and the law will not actually stop anyone from anything.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Tablizer ( 95088 )

      So, there ought to be a law against adding new laws?

    • by jythie ( 914043 )
      Yes, laws can be abused. What needs to be weighed is the benefits of the law against the costs.

      By the looks of it, the original law was designed to address serial offenders like scam artists. So if they get caught and prosecuted, those individuals are less likely to keep doing it.
      • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

        What needs to be carefully looked at is interpretive laws and the way they actually work in application. The rich basically use their wealth and lawyers to abuse the poor. Not only can the rich most abusively annoy the poor and get away it, they can also claim any imaginable action of the poor is annoying and ensure the poor are punished for it.

        Just to be clear about an understanding of annoyance. A criminal runs up and shoots people in a bank and takes the money. Now don't you think that criminal finds

        • by jythie ( 914043 )
          The 'annoyance' part was commentary created by the OP. The actual law is anti-harassment, which has a higher legal standard then 'annoyance'. Which leads me to suspect that the people behind the piece are worried that their harassing behavior might get called into question so they are trying to paint it as 'this law might be coming for you too!' when, in reality, it isn't.
  • by Crashmarik ( 635988 ) on Friday April 24, 2015 @10:03AM (#49545179)

    Really ? You think any government wouldn't love a law that lets them persecute people for their speech ?

    Be willing to bet this law passes. It's a big blunt club that can be used by a government to hit people with, and too many people will think it will only hit people they don't like.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Throw Ireland in jail!

  • Word swap? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jythie ( 914043 ) on Friday April 24, 2015 @10:14AM (#49545273)
    Wait wait wait. If we are talking about little more than a word swap, wouldn't the standards that were previously applied to things like snail mail be the same for electronic communication? Has the law ever been used or interpreted to cover mailing a paperback fiction book counting?

    This strikes me as going beyond a 'literal' interpretation of the law and goes well into the territory of taking serious liberties with the text and its interpretation. If all this is doing is extending existing laws for fraud and harassment to cover electronic transfers too, then looking to how those laws were applied by judges and lawyers would be a strong (if not outright binding) indicator of what the change actually means.
    • Wait wait wait. If we are talking about little more than a word swap, wouldn't the standards that were previously applied to things like snail mail be the same for electronic communication? Has the law ever been used or interpreted to cover mailing a paperback fiction book counting?

      Two words: Selective Enforcement.

      • by jythie ( 914043 )
        Unless the law has been selectively enforced already, expanding its interpretation would go against precedent and thus be an uphill battle. I think some people here are falling for the 'adding an e changes everything!' when it does not always do so.
      • by Luckyo ( 1726890 )

        This law is not new. It has significant amount of legal precedent already established. You will have to demonstrate why expanding the definition will suddenly bring up selective enforcement where there hasn't been any to push this argument.

    • Re:Word swap? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by erebus2161 ( 3441365 ) on Friday April 24, 2015 @10:27AM (#49545405)
      This is an excellent point and I'd like to extend it a little further. The law doesn't even say what the summary or linked article says it does. If it did, sending a paperback through the mail would have already been against the low. First, notice that the part about sending false messages isn't by itself, but a sub section of the part about "for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety to another". So just sending a work of fiction doesn't count. If I send you a story about how your wife is cheating on you with me when she actually isn't, then I could be fined. Or if I send you hundreds ebooks to annoy you and fill up your inbox, then I could be fined.
      • Ditto the part about "persistently and without reasonable cause makes use of a public electronic communications network"—again, that only applies if it's for the purpose of causing annoyance etc. Despite what the first (more hysterical) linked article says, refreshing Facebook every 10 seconds won't violate this law.

        (Unless, of course, you're doing it to deliberately annoy or inconvenience Facebook.)
  • by MikeRT ( 947531 ) on Friday April 24, 2015 @10:16AM (#49545291)

    Were it not for the first amendment, there's no doubt in my mind that the people yelling "triggering!" at Christina Hoff Sommers at Oberlin would have sought her prosecution under a law like this. There is a not so fine line that many ignore between opposing cyberbullying and coddling pathetic little weaklings who simply cannot stomach the idea that there are people who hold different, maybe even offensive, views. My view as a free speech partisan is that "safe spaces" need to be smashed as aggressively as the concept of "free speech zones." If someone simply will not leave you alone, that's harassment and warrants a basic sanction under the law. However, no one has a right to not be annoyed or hear things upsetting to them. We as a society should be utterly intolerant of people who expect to be protected from such things. It should be a mark of scorn and shame to be that thin-skinned and publicly notorious for being so.

    Ireland is risking a very serious mistake that will hollow out much of its claim to being an open and democratic society if this is passed.

    • Freedom is the right to do things people don't like.

      • by Anonymous Coward
        Freedom is the right to do things people don't like - up until the moment when you are restricting their freedom to do things they do like. Slightly different thing. But this is the Internet - where sociopathy and solipsism rule!
    • Eventually the courts will apply "yelling fire in a theater" to more types of speech if that's what society wants. The only question will be whether it is legal for the crowd to beat the speaker to death in self defense, or if it should be left to the authorities.
    • by Livius ( 318358 )

      coddling pathetic little weaklings who simply cannot stomach the idea that there are people who hold different, maybe even offensive, views.

      Some people have views that differ from yours.

      The solution is never either one of the extremes.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Friday April 24, 2015 @10:18AM (#49545311) Journal
    On the very small plus side, perhaps this will make using Ireland as the tax dodge for your tech company slightly less convenient. Otherwise, isn't this the same country that decided that outlawing blasphemy would be a cool idea in 2009? There may be a screw or two loose.
  • Law That Would Make Annoying People Online a Crime

    What if someone annoying is online, can I punch them?

  • by ei4anb ( 625481 ) on Friday April 24, 2015 @10:26AM (#49545393)
    Down with that sort of thing!
  • by Anonymous Coward

    If you want to outlaw annoying people, just outlaw it regardless of the medium.

  • Why would you read the law literally in a common-law system? The way the law works is by precedent.

  • by Applehu Akbar ( 2968043 ) on Friday April 24, 2015 @10:37AM (#49545471)

    I would lose half my residential IT fixit business.

  • Great. I'll be locked in jail with my entire family.

  • Lawmakers are too fucking stupid to understand technology.

    This clown is no exception.

  • You say that group is troublingly named. I say it's the best name ever. If the acronym ICGAG (pronounced "Icy Gag") isn't the most perfectly apropos thing ever I don't know what is. I mean, it combines the "gag" that best describes censorship with the modifier "icy" to remind us of the chilling effects that go along with such censorship.

  • by Jason Levine ( 196982 ) on Friday April 24, 2015 @11:01AM (#49545659) Homepage

    Annoying people online is a crime?

    Windows is so much better than Linux in every way!

    Ok, I'll go turn myself in now. ;-)

    • by Livius ( 318358 )

      If instead you had said Linux was better than Windows, you'd have annoyed a different group of people, but you'd be in the clear because it's a true statement.

  • If it is crime to annoy offline than it should be crime to annoy online as well.
  • ... like the flea with ambitions to rape the elephant ...

    Ireland is small. Roughly the size & population of the American state of Maryland. Everyone knows that Maryland is one of the least significant places in the US much less the world. Yet Ireland thinks it can control the internet and how people use it. Even the entire USA can't do that. Silly Ireland. (Sorry to include you in this, Maryland. You're not really a total loser.)

  • This is discrimination [youtube.com], pure, simple, and fresh-squeezed.

  • On the other hand, due to my work environment, I need a law passed that would make it a crime for people to annoy me in person.
  • New flash! Nearly all of Ireland's youth jailed over some damn picture of a dress.
  • The really annoying people are the politicians who can't see reality because their vision is obstructed by their anal orifices. Can we arrest them? They annoy us all the time, not just online.
  • If it means I don't have to put up with David Cameron. He's a very annoying person on line.

  • Defendant stands accused of 15 counts of Rick-rolling, 2 counts of goat-se, and advocating HOSTS.

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