The end of blogs?
It is now against the law to post a anonymous comment on a blog if it “annoys” another party.
I am not kidding you. This is the ultimate Christmas gift to politicians.
“Whoever…utilizes any device or software that can be used to originate telecommunications or other types of communications that are transmitted, in whole or in part, by the Internet… without disclosing his identity and with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass any person…who receives the communications…shall be fined under title 18 or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.”
President Bush signed this into law on January 5th 2006 when he signed the H.R. 3402, the “Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act of 2005”.
Declan McCullagh at cnet news.com writes:
“The use of the word ‘annoy’ is particularly problematic,” says Marv Johnson, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union. “What’s annoying to one person may not be annoying to someone else.”
Buried deep in the new law is Sec. 113, an innocuously titled bit called “Preventing Cyberstalking.” It rewrites existing telephone harassment law to prohibit anyone from using the Internet “without disclosing his identity and with intent to annoy.”
To grease the rails for this idea, Sen. Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican, and the section’s other sponsors slipped it into an unrelated, must-pass bill to fund the Department of Justice. The plan: to make it politically infeasible for politicians to oppose the measure.
The tactic worked. The bill cleared the House of Representatives by voice vote, and the Senate unanimously approved it Dec. 16.
There’s an interesting side note. An earlier version that the House approved in September had radically different wording. It was reasonable by comparison, and criminalized only using an “interactive computer service” to cause someone “substantial emotional harm.”
That kind of prohibition might make sense. But why should merely annoying someone be illegal?
There are perfectly legitimate reasons to set up a Web site or write something incendiary without telling everyone exactly who you are.
Think about it: A woman fired by a manager who demanded sexual favors wants to blog about it without divulging her full name. An aspiring pundit hopes to set up the next Suck.com. A frustrated citizen wants to send e-mail describing corruption in local government without worrying about reprisals.