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Trolling is now OFFICIALLY illegal

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http://news.com.com/Create+an+e-annoyance%...22491&subj=news"Annoying someone via the Internet is now a federal crime.It's no joke. Last Thursday, President Bush signed into law a prohibition on posting annoying Web messages or sending annoying e-mail messages without disclosing your true identity.In other words, it's OK to flame someone on a mailing list or in a blog as long as you do it under your real name. Thank Congress for small favors, I guess.This ridiculous prohibition, which would likely imperil much of Usenet, is buried in the so-called Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act. Criminal penalties include stiff fines and two years in prison."The use of the word 'annoy' is particularly problematic," says Marv Johnson, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union. "What's annoying to one person may not be annoying to someone else."Buried deep in the new law is Sec. 113, an innocuously titled bit called "Preventing Cyberstalking." It rewrites existing telephone harassment law to prohibit anyone from using the Internet "without disclosing his identity and with intent to annoy." "

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In general, Ken, I think you're right in your interpretation. But, FWIW, I've always held that if it wasn't something you'd say to another person's face, while sitting together at the dinner table, it ought not be protected by the anonymity of the internet.Bart BartholomayDeacontg272

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I think the concern Ken expressed isn't over the anonymity issue, but over the way a word like "annoy" could be used to prosecute people. An example--someone observes a malicious comment about family or loved ones at a racial hate site, and out of concern, anonymously posts to the site. Imagine being sued or prosecuted because of such a post because it can "annoy"? Even I have jumped into political discussions without revealing my identity--express some points of view otherwise, and your life comes under threat. Something like this could be a very effective tool for suppressing free speech. If someone has a right to bash my race, creed or color, I should have a right to respond without fear of retaliation against me or my loved ones. -John

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This is very scary indeed. Big Brother has been on the march at full stride in this country for twenty years. Unchallenged and even encouraged by the sheep that make up the vast majority of the population, his pace has quickened in recent years.

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Regardless of whether or not it's even true, the mere fact it's even being brought up is scarey.I hate to say it, but you know what? The path this admninistration is going down is the wrong one by any stretch.For our international folks here at Avsim, the word "annoying" by the american meaning can mean just about anything. It's a generic catch all.This is just outrageous. I hope it's all a joke.

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"The path this admninistration is going down is the wrong one by any stretch."Indeed, Jeff. And you're hearing that from a Republican (although the Bush folks may actually cure me of that).Subject to interpretation... to prosecute one for "annoying" another, the prosecution would then have to show intent. And that may or may not be a challenge. In the end one could only hope for the clear thinking of 12 right minded people to decide whether or not one had true intent to annoy another. Evenso, the mere fact that a federal prosecutor could drag a citizen into court (and force upon them the expense of a legal defence) is enough.Which brings another issue to mind... that federal prosecutor has virtually unlimited protection (with but a few very difficult to breach qualifications) to do anything they wish to a citizen. Which is pretty much a very nasty annoyance. Seems to me that what's good for the goose should be good for the gander (although the Bush people clearly would not agree).Do ya think the terrorists are enjoying all these various protection schemes the current administration is providing us? They don't have to kill off our culture... our leadership is doing that for them.Embarrasing leadership... ooops, hope I'm not annoying any of them.Greg

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Thanks Greg, but I've served under his father, and it just keeps getting funnier and funnier until finally it starts to really get serious and it's not funny any more.It doesn't matter whether or not a conviction can actually be had, here in the US the mere fact you've been arrested can now ruin a life completely no matter the charge. The arrest still stays with you, the conviction or not is irrelevant. (spelling all over the place I'm sure)

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I hope you're not suggesting that it should make any difference whether there was INTENT to annoy or not in the consideration of making this a Federal crime. Who among us would walk free today if doing so required that our past was totally free of any intent to annoy?

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I agree with you, Charlie, but intent must be proven by the plaintiff (prosecution in this scenario). A jury could not find the defendent guilty under U.S. statute unless intent is proven. Failing that the "annoyed" party could then bring their own action against the accused in a civil court (the only sticking point being they'd have to find a very bored judge who is willing to inpanel a jury for such an action). But the annoyed accuser would not then have to prove intent (under civil law).And your point is most valid. How many folks can say they have never in their life intended to annoy someone. This is another one of those laws that can be easily proven to be stupid and invalid... it's one that makes criminals out of most (if not all) citizens.Cheers,GregP.S. On a lighter note... this discussion is beginning to annoy me. You've all benn warned. :-)

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Wow, totally ridiculous! What horrible wording. We can only assume that they meant to use words like "threaten" or "harass". I get annoyed by those moronic e-mail chain letters. I can't wait to tell my in-laws that they are going to jail for sending that stuff to me. :)

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At last we now have the law behind us when acting against all those anonymous trolls and spoilers on forums we moderate ;)You see, everything has 2 sides :)Yes, this law is open to abuse. But so is any other law. Speed limits can be used to extort money from unsuspecting drivers, yet everyone would agree there's a place for them.Violent crime laws can be used to place people you don't like in "protective custody" just when you want them out of town for a while (think of what the DNC did to opponents in Boston in 2004), yet when it comes to locking up murderers and other serious offenders they're very useful.It was high time the law was enhanced to make stalking online a crime just as stalking over the phone or fax is. Of course any such law has unintended consequences (or can have) but you try to write the text so that such is impossible without leaving the law essentially useless (which so many laws are of course).

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It's about high time that someone made a law about that then don't you think? LOL c'mon now.

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"I can't wait to tell my in-laws that they are going to jail for sending that stuff to me. "LOL, Craig. I just told that one to my wife... she gave me the "look" (burrrr, it's suddenly very cold here).Jeroen, no one here is disputing the law's usefulness for protecting citizens from stalking and/or harrassing (including those stinking spam e-mailer's). What we're all concerned about is the civil servant who would use the law to go after someone for posting something "annoying" in, say, an open forum (such as this one). Defining the law under the term "annoying" leaves an ugly number of possibilties open for the governemnt to bring prosecution. And given the current administration's zeal for controlling everything in the world, there's ample enough reason for everybody (including you... say something bad and the U.S Government could wisk you off to one of those non-existant jails that aren't located in various places off U.S. soil) to be concerned.Simply put, it's too much power by creating too many loopholes for the government to operate thru.Cheers,Greg

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I can't say I blame everything on Bush. There are 100 Senators and some (485 isn't it?) Represenatives. For it to even reach Bush, the majority had to have said yes to this. Though laws like these are ussually so well hidden in the deal that half the people probably didn't even realize it was in there. There are quite a few laws like that that were hidden by Senators and Reps in the past, which is the part that I generally find disgustingly underhanded. It would be interesting to read the Bill and see which Congressman stuck it in there.I also think that rules should be changed that allow only one law to be on a bill at a time to keep people from hijacking these things like that. Sometimes they put these frivolous laws in so that just so Congressmen will catch them and vote no on the bill they would have otherwise voted yes on.----------------------------------------------------------------John MorganReal World: KGEG, UND Aerospace Spokane Satillite, Private ASEL 141.2 hrs, 314 landings, 46 inst. apprs.Virtual: MSFS 2004"There is a feeling about an airport that no other piece of ground can have. No matter what the name of the country on whose land it lies, an airport is a place you can see and touch that leads to a reality that can only be thought and felt." - The Bridge Across Forever: A Love Story by Richard Bach

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For a legal analysis by some law professors and lawyers: http://volokh.com/posts/1136873535.shtmlTheir verdict: essentially nothing is changing except the same rules that apply for phone stalking and harassment now apply for internet telephony as well.

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"Their verdict: essentially nothing is changing except the same rules that apply for phone stalking and harassment now apply for internet telephony as well."US Code title 47, Chapter 5, Subchapter 2, Part1, 223(a)© states: makes a telephone call or utilizes a telecommunications device, whether or not conversation or communication ensues, without disclosing his identity and with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass any person at the called number or who receives the communications; shall be fined under title 18 or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.The new law is slip-streamed into the original with one very serious flaw. Anyone who intitiates a telephone call with the purpose of annoying/harrassing another does so without their victim's knowledge. While the new law would seem to be pointed at the cybestalkers/e-mail spammers, the fact that anyone who "annoys" another in cyberspace (including forums such as this) without revealing their true identity also falls under the law.And therein lies the problem. Any overzealous prosecutor can now use that law to legally "harrass or annoy" any citizen for any "real" reason they deem valid. That citizen could be subjected to arrest and/or indictment, public trial (in which they would probably have to pay for their own defence in such a idiotic action), and perhaps even conviction (although I wouldn't put a dime on the prosecutions chances of winning). Evenso, that citizen would suffer harm due to the actions of a government not held in check (and void of any real liabilties for the harm it caused the citizen).You see, Jeroen, the concerns of folks in this discussion aren't so much about another stupid and poorly thought-out law. Our concern lies in a government that creates laws to enpower itself over a majority of it's citizens. Such laws are woefully bad for any country and it's people.It's yet another law enacted by a government that is proving itself to be as ignorant and shortsighted as the monkey cage at a zoo.But on the upside, George Orwell would have loved the object lesson of it all.Greg

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Now we can start getting into politicians getting elected on the platform they are going make more laws.We have way too many laws. I never understood why we weren't more dynamic as a society. As time changes get rid of the usless stuff and/or modify. Instead we just like to keep adding and totaly forget about the past. That's why our system is starting to fade out into nothing.Check out the latest confimration hearings for more stupidity. We can't even get officials into office anymore...LOL I'm surprised anyone wants to serve anymore let alone even get elected or hired to office. We just keep adding fuel to the fire, it's getting stupid.enough ranting now....LOL. I needed a good laugh I guess.

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Of course there are way too many laws, politicians have nothing else to do but create them so that's what they do...That's why modifying an existing law to adept to new conditions is a good thing compared with creating a new law ;)That's also the reason why democracies are so brittle. Over time they petrify as ever more things become impossible to achieve due to the ever increasing number of often contradictory laws.Did you know it's now impossible to run a business without breaking the law?Did you know you can't drive your car without breaking the law?Feudal societies OTOH are flexible and can easily adapt to new and changing conditions, a simple royal decree is all it takes (if the ruler is a reasonably sane person and not a complete nutcase of course).

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As I understand it, the section you quoted is from the US Communications Act 1934 - so it's been applicable for more than 70 years. I believe the new law extends the definition of telecommunications device to cover the internet.How many over-zealous prosecutions have there been since 1934?

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correct. The only thing that's changed is the definition of what constitutes communications, not the definition of what's illegal.Is that definition broad? maybe.But we've all seen what can happen when a definition is so narrow that future developments make is a laugh (as was the case with defining "telecommunications device" as a telephone explicitly).

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It's clear that the discussion has taken two divergent paths. Let's simply agree that some believe there is no problem with this new law, while others see such a law as the perfect example of what the future holds between citizens and their governments.Regards to all,Greg

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>At last we now have the law behind us when acting against all>those anonymous trolls and spoilers on forums we moderate ;)>>You see, everything has 2 sides :)>>Yes, this law is open to abuse. But so is any other law. Speed>limits can be used to extort money from unsuspecting drivers,>yet everyone would agree there's a place for them.>Violent crime laws can be used to place people you don't like>in "protective custody" just when you want them out of town>for a while (think of what the DNC did to opponents in Boston>in 2004), yet when it comes to locking up murderers and other>serious offenders they're very useful.>>It was high time the law was enhanced to make stalking online>a crime just as stalking over the phone or fax is. Of course>any such law has unintended consequences (or can have) but you>try to write the text so that such is impossible without>leaving the law essentially useless (which so many laws are of>course).Whew!! I guess many of us thought we had a real problem here. But if you say it's OK, that's good enough for me. I mean....it would be different if there examples in world history of abuse by those in positions of power.But we should all feel assured that we'll be safe from prosecution if we just follow the outstanding example you set daily. Never post ANYTHING with the intent to annoy. :)

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Fortunately, I use my real Name. Im free to SLOG away.

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In the UK we get calls from a number of disreputable tele-marketing firms - often based overseas. They use computers to generate telephone calls but have more lines than staff. The result is often silence when you pick up the phone. Of course they withhold their numbers and also ignore the telephone preference service which allows you to register as not wanting any marketing calls.These firms annoy me yet they are not, as far as I am aware, breaking UK law.It is the behaviour of firms like that which lead to legislation,

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