Notice to all you comment trolls, Facebook ‘stalkers,’ and general miscreants on the web: the Arizona law that would make it a crime to “annoy” or “offend” someone through the use of “any electronic or digital device” has been recalled from Governor Jan Brewer’s desk. The Huffington Post reported yesterday that the move was due to recognition that the bill, as written, had serious Constitutional flaws that would make nearly everything on the Internet illegal.
The original intent of the law was to expand the state’s anti-harassment laws to include more modern forms of communication, since few people other than my grandmother have something that could only be described as a “telephone.” If you can make voice or video calls to people’s phones through Skype or Google Voice, a law that only applies to calls through a telephone might allow harassment to go unabated. Hopefully, with some careful consideration and advice from legal scholars versed in these issues, the legislature can draft a bill that limits its scope to real criminal matters and leaves the rest of the Internet to achieve its true purpose–delivering pictures of kittens with funny captions and giving people still upset about Jar Jar Binks a place to vent. I’ll keep an eye on this and post an update as soon as we have a new bill. Goes to show that, in this age, drafting good legislation is a lot more difficult than just lining up enough votes.