9
Jan/06

Debate Over 'Intent To Annoy' Language In Anti-Cyberstalking Law


A new anti-cyberstalking law has the following 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.
Some commentators have raised concerns that the language could be used to stifle critical speech (as in a pseudonymous blogger urges readers to take some act calculated to annoy a public figure). Others point out that the language tracks that of state statutes.
This is not my area of law and I defer to First Amendment lawyers out there. However, my immediate reaction to the language is the lumping together of all means of communications over the Internet. I have been the subject of ‘harrassing language’ via website, email and instant message (what can I tell you, I make friends wherever I go), and the targeted nature of email and IM make a difference.

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