Two years in jail for blogging harsh criticism?

Eugene Volokh blows the whistle on what had been an under the radar move to ban cyber-bullying. Unfortunately this effort could also be used to jail bloggers and twitters that are less than polite. From the Volokh Conspiracy Blog:

Federal Felony To Use Blogs, the Web, Etc. To Cause Substantial Emotional Distress Through “Severe, Repeated, and Hostile” Speech?

That’s what a House of Representatives bill, proposed by Rep. Linda T. Sanchez and 14 others, would do. Here’s the relevant text:

Whoever transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication, with the intent to coerce, intimidate, harass, or cause substantial emotional distress to a person, using electronic means to support severe, repeated, and hostile behavior, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both….

[“Communication”] means the electronic transmission, between or among points specified by the user, of information of the user’s choosing, without change in the form or content of the information as sent and received; …

[“Electronic means”] means any equipment dependent on electrical power to access an information service, including email, instant messaging, blogs, websites, telephones, and text messages.

“Severe, repeated, and hostile” sound likes half the stuff you see on the internet. I doubt that this bill would pass constitutional mustard. But if it did the ramifications are rather frightening.

ARS Technica has an excellent article on the subject here.

And what would any censorship effort be without the requisite mainstream media cheerleading? You can find that here.


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