Arizona Capitol

Arizona's Online Harassment Bill Passes Legislature; You Can Still "Annoy or Offend" Others on the Internet, to an Extent

Arizona's House Bill 2549 -- which was derailed after a critic's view that it was a "bill to censor electronic speech" caught on -- has been approved by some legislators after changes were made to address those concerns.

There were a lot of misconceptions about this bill, especially from the Kremlin apologists at Russia Today, who furthered a rumor -- it wasn't even a rumor, it was just wrong -- that the bill in its original form had made it to Governor Jan Brewer's desk.

Either way, State Representative Vic Williams told New Times last month that legislators had received quite a bit of "legitimate concerns" -- and illegitimate concerns -- about the bill, and Representative Ted Vogt has stopped the bill from moving forward so everyone can figure it out.

Legislators apparently figured it out, as the bill passed easily without opposition from the Media Coalition, which led the charge against the bill, mostly for text in the original version that would outlaw the use of electronic or digital devices to "annoy or offend" someone.

Pretty much anyone who writes for this publication or uses the comment threads on posts has "annoy[ed]" or "offend[ed]" someone, so it didn't really seem like a popular idea with anyone in this neck of the woods.

"It is unlawful for any person, with intent to terrify, intimidate, threaten, harass, annoy or offend, to use any electronic or digital device and use any obscene, lewd or profane language or suggest any lewd or lascivious act, or threaten to inflict physical harm to the person or  property of any person," the initial text of the bill read.

Now, the version as passed by legislators doesn't include the the "annoy or offend" part, and it's been clarified that it has to be directed at a specific person or specific people.

We reached out to the Media Coalition for its response to the amended version of the bill, to no avail, so we'll have to go off what's printed on its website:

Most Recent News: H.B. 2549 will receive a final vote in the House on April 30. The bill has been amended to apply only to electronic speech directed at a specific person or group, and the terms "annoy" and "offend" have been removed from the legislation; the amendments also include definitions of certain terms.

That's it. Previous updates from the group about the bill included angry letters to legislators, but no word of opposition to this form.

Williams previously told New Times that he spoke to Media Coalition executive director David Horowitz for quite a bit about the bill, and said he was willing to work with the group for some input on the bill.

The bill, Williams explained, is part of a push by legislators to update old statutes so they're still relevant with changing technology. The language nobody liked was already in statute, but it didn't apply to electronic devices -- just telephones.

Now, the bill seems to be the anti-stalking bill it was billed to be, Bill.


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