After Angering the Internet, HB 2549 Stopped
On Monday, HB 2549 hit the Internet’s attention in a semi-SOPA way. The bill sought to update existing telephone harassment laws by prohibiting anyone “with intent to terrify, intimidate, threaten, harass, annoy or offend, to use any electronic or digital device” in order to “threaten to inflict physical harm to the person.”
So, the law would crack down on internet trolls. That’s all well and good, right? In fact, it looks like the government is trying to keep up with this wild and crazy digital era.
Well, not so much. The biggest problem with HB 2549 is its vague language, which you can read here. While telephone communication is restricted to one-on-one situations, the internet is a beast with many heads. As the Media Coalition points out in a letter to Governor Jan Brewer, the bill does not explicitly define “harassment,” nor does it require that the “subject of the speech actually feel offended, annoyed, or scared.”
The Media Coalition continues their grievances by pointing out the following:
Bill Maher’s stand up routines and Jon Stewart’s nightly comedy program, Ann Coulter’s books criticizing liberals and Christopher Hitchens’ expressing his disdain for religion, Stephen King’s novels or the Halloween films all could be subject to this legislation.
This is a problem. We love Jon Stewart.
At the bare minimum, the bill needs to be refined. The Media Coalition, and many of the bill’s other opponents, is calling for a narrower bill which better defines instances of harassment without infringing on people’s freedom of speech.
And, as the Phoenix New Times reports, the outcry has worked. The bill was recently stopped in the House, pending further amendments.
State Representative Vic Williams stated on his website that the bill has been misrepresented, and told the New Times that “the intent was to protect people from harassment and stalking, and defend people’s privacy.” While these are worthwhile goals, the bill touches upon a gray area – freedom of speech and online harassment – which demands specific language and proper representation.
Williams has stated that he’s willing to work with the Media Coalition “for some input on the bill” and that he’s “very receptive to the input that doesn’t involve chemtrails and Orwellian conspiracy theories.”
What are your thoughts on the news surrounding HB 2549?