Jan Brewer Signs Harassment Bill; Feel Free to Continue Being an A-Hole on the Internet

Governor Jan Brewer signed signed House Bill 2549 yesterday, an effort to outlaw using electronic devices to harass people.

Thanks to the outrage caused over the initial version of the bill, the revised version signed by the governor allows you to continue acting like an asshole on the Internet.

The first version of the bill would have outlaw the use of electronic or digital devices to "annoy or offend" someone, which didn't sit too well with technology and free-speech advocates.

The Media Coalition was really the primary group in opposition of the bill as it was first proposed, saying the following:

It would make it a crime to communicate via electronic means speech that is intended to "annoy," "offend," "harass" or "terrify," as well as certain sexual speech.  However, because the bill is not limited to one-to-one communications, H.B. 2549 would apply to the Internet as a whole, thus criminalizing all manner of writing, cartoons, and other protected material the state finds offensive or annoying.

Now, the group seems happy with some of the changes that were made for the final edition signed by the governor.

The words "annoy" and "offend" are out, harassment and threats have to be directed toward specific, and it only applies to telephone calls, text messages, instant messages, and email.

When the uproar over the initial proposal started coming in, state Representative Vic Williams told New Times that the actual intent of the bill was not to throw Internet trolls in jail -- the intent was to protect people from harassment and stalking, and defend people's privacy. After concerns were brought up about the bill, it was stopped so that could be addressed.

What legislators had done was offer changes to a current law that outlawed harassing people -- or trying to "annoy" or "offend" someone -- on a telephone. References to telephones were updated to include electronic or digital devices.

Text of the bill approved by the governor can be found here.


Changes Proposed to Online Harassment Bill; Allows People to "Annoy or Offend" Others on the Internet -- to an Extent

Internet Trolls Can Breathe Easy for a Minute -- HB 2549 Has Been Stopped

Anonymous Advocates Sending "Butthurt Report Form" to Jan Brewer, Legislators

Arizona Legislature Apparently Trying to Criminalize Being Annoying on the Internet

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Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley