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Thread: Illegal to Annoy on the Internet (Bout Fxcking time!)

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    SVZ
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    Default Illegal to Annoy on the Internet (Bout Fxcking time!)

    Annoying someone via the Internet is now a federal crime.

    It's no joke. Last Thursday, President Bush signed into law a prohibition on posting annoying Web messages or sending annoying e-mail messages without disclosing your true identity.

    In other words, it's OK to flame someone on a mailing list or in a blog as long as you do it under your real name. Thank Congress for small favors, I guess.

    This ridiculous prohibition, which would likely imperil much of Usenet, is buried in the so-called Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act. Criminal penalties include stiff fines and two years in prison.

    "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."
    It's illegal to annoy

    A new federal law states that when you annoy someone on the Internet, you must disclose your identity. Here's the relevant language.

    "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."

    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.

    In each of those three cases, someone's probably going to be annoyed. That's enough to make the action a crime. (The Justice Department won't file charges in every case, of course, but trusting prosecutorial discretion is hardly reassuring.)

    Clinton Fein, a San Francisco resident who runs the Annoy.com site, says a feature permitting visitors to send obnoxious and profane postcards through e-mail could be imperiled.

    "Who decides what's annoying? That's the ultimate question," Fein said. He added: "If you send an annoying message via the United States Post Office, do you have to reveal your identity?"

    Fein once sued to overturn part of the Communications Decency Act that outlawed transmitting indecent material "with intent to annoy." But the courts ruled the law applied only to obscene material, so Annoy.com didn't have to worry.

    "I'm certainly not going to close the site down," Fein said on Friday. "I would fight it on First Amendment grounds."

    He's right. Our esteemed politicians can't seem to grasp this simple point, but the First Amendment protects our right to write something that annoys someone else.

    It even shields our right to do it anonymously. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas defended this principle magnificently in a 1995 case involving an Ohio woman who was punished for distributing anonymous political pamphlets.

    If President Bush truly believed in the principle of limited government (it is in his official bio), he'd realize that the law he signed cannot be squared with the Constitution he swore to uphold.

    And then he'd repeat what President Clinton did a decade ago when he felt compelled to sign a massive telecommunications law. Clinton realized that the section of the law punishing abortion-related material on the Internet was unconstitutional, and he directed the Justice Department not to enforce it.

    Bush has the chance to show his respect for what he calls Americans' personal freedoms. Now we'll see if the president rises to the occasion.

    Biography
    Declan McCullagh is CNET News.com's Washington, D.C., correspondent. He chronicles the busy intersection between technology and politics. Before that, he worked for several years as Washington bureau chief for Wired News. He has also worked as a reporter for The Netly News, Time magazine and HotWired.


    CNET News

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    Elite Member suede's Avatar
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    Default Re: Illegal to Annoy on the Internet (Bout Fxcking time!)

    That's ridiculous.

    Next thing will be suing your co-worker because he or she breathes too close and too loud next to you during office meetings and you find it annoying.
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    Default Re: Illegal to Annoy on the Internet (Bout Fxcking time!)

    nope, and i'm glad to hear it actually.

    you've got some psychotic idiots who ruined it for everyone.

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    Elite Member suede's Avatar
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    Default Re: Illegal to Annoy on the Internet (Bout Fxcking time!)

    Quote Originally Posted by SVZ
    nope, and i'm glad to hear it actually.

    you've got some psychotic idiots who ruined it for everyone.
    Annoy is an extremely poor choice of word to use as a benchmark of appropriate behavior, I mean how big of a grey area is annoy?
    He who knows does not speak.
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    Default Re: Illegal to Annoy on the Internet (Bout Fxcking time!)

    it is, but it'll be up to the judge to decide what they define as "annoy"

    lewd and obscene aren't lega definitions either and it's up to the judge or whichever legal ruling body to draw the line.

    but i think this is meant to cover things such as cyberbulling, cyberstalking (which already is a crime) and things that are closer to harrassment.

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    Default Re: Illegal to Annoy on the Internet (Bout Fxcking time!)

    i think there's a difference.

    if a person follows you around on the internet spreading lies about you, has your home address, and posts your photo on gay prostitution websites - causing you to need to change your home phone number and privatize your information, you might have a case.

    if you're bashing a celeb well....the gossip magazines would be the first ones to go.

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    Elite Member suede's Avatar
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    Default Re: Illegal to Annoy on the Internet (Bout Fxcking time!)

    Quote Originally Posted by SVZ
    it is, but it'll be up to the judge to decide what they define as "annoy"

    lewd and obscene aren't lega definitions either and it's up to the judge or whichever legal ruling body to draw the line.

    but i think this is meant to cover things such as cyberbulling, cyberstalking (which already is a crime) and things that are closer to harrassment.
    I agree with it conceptually but it will ultimately clutter the courts more and waste tax payer's money.

    I think lewd or obscene or bit better than annoy - I mean some people find tapping of one's foot annoying, personally I can think of a few people that their mere presence annoys me.

    But you know what I'm getting it.

    Should be interesting to see where this goes.
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    Default Re: Illegal to Annoy on the Internet (Bout Fxcking time!)

    the internet gives you a lot of power. with a bit of research a person can become completely anonymous.

    yes we hear of people getting caught, but those a few cases out of the thousands.

    crap i wish i had this website url again, but basically this ex-hacker infiltrated a chat room which other hackers were using it to meet - they'd systematically shut down sites by having thousands of slave computers contact the victim computer. some people do make upwards of thousands of dollars on their websites, if you destroyed their ability to provide their server, you're also destroying their livelihood. and there's a bit of leeway into if that's an actual offense or not. this just clarifies it by overstepping the edge...i'm guessing it'll refine in the future.

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    Default Re: Illegal to Annoy on the Internet (Bout Fxcking time!)

    so's obscene and pornographic though

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    Elite Member suede's Avatar
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    Default Re: Illegal to Annoy on the Internet (Bout Fxcking time!)

    Quote Originally Posted by SVZ
    if a person follows you around on the internet spreading lies about you, has your home address, and posts your photo on gay prostitution websites - causing you to need to change your home phone number and privatize your information, you might have a case.

    That's slander (libel) and harassment which are both illegal and well annoying.

    But the opinion of something being annoying is much like whether or not someone likes peanut butter and bannana sanwiches on wheat toast.
    He who knows does not speak.
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    Default Re: Illegal to Annoy on the Internet (Bout Fxcking time!)

    i wouldn't split hairs worrying about what the word "annoying" means. it will be up to a judge, and you know if he/she punishes or overlooks something that is obviously right/wrong, people can appeal. my sister's sick ex-boyfriend has been doing this for over a year now, and there is no power to stop him, cause identity theft in the state she lives in has to have something do with money in order for it to be a crime. he posts pictures of her and her baby, makes up things about her, etc. if people (like old friends) have looked her up through a search engine, they can find "her", but really it is him jerking people around. and the fucker even has had the nerve to IM her, to say "who are you, i am {my sister's name}".

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    Elite Member moomies's Avatar
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    Default Re: Illegal to Annoy on the Internet (Bout Fxcking time!)

    Quote Originally Posted by Frank_Rizzo
    Well then 90% of us are breaking the law on this site alone. If Jessica Simpson came on here and read the things we have to say about her, you bet she'd be annoyed.

    Anybody here use their real name? Anybody?
    I don't think anyone's gonna start using their real names on the internet (oh wait, we did have one poster who used to use her real name as her ID didn't we? ). It kind of defeats its main purpose/characteristic which is the anonimity.
    I sort of have a common name though. I even had a classmate who had the same name. I was so startled when my prof called out my name and someone else answered.

    If you think it's crazy, you ain't seen a thing. Just wait until we're goin down in flames.

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    Elite Member Barbara's Avatar
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    Default Re: Illegal to Annoy on the Internet (Bout Fxcking time!)

    Quote Originally Posted by dexter7
    my sister's sick ex-boyfriend has been doing this for over a year now, and there is no power to stop him
    I'd ask Bush to send him straight to Guantanamo...

    I know what it means because I had to change my phone number because of a serious nutcase a few years ago, as for his emails under different names I threw them away without reading so I wouldn't be affected. Yes, being "annoyed" in this way does suck.

    But making it illegal gives me a "big-brotheresque" feeling I really don't like
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    Elite Member lurkur's Avatar
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    Default Re: Illegal to Annoy on the Internet (Bout Fxcking time!)

    What were they thinking when they did this? Probably a way to nail people for putting out info on the internet that they don't want spread around. Even if they DO define what constitutes "annoying" (that could be ANYTHING) how the hell would they implement this? My guess is they'll use this to target certain people, enemies of their cronies.

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    Default Re: Illegal to Annoy on the Internet (Bout Fxcking time!)

    you've got some psychotic idiots who ruined it for everyone.
    "You'll never take me alive!!!"


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