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  1. #1

    Has anyone heard of this - is it true?


    Cloaked Internet annoying could be a federal offence..

    Declan McCullagh, CNET News's Washington, D.C., correspondent caused a flurry this week with an interesting article on new American legislation signed into law last week and addressing the problem of annoying Internet behaviour by message board posting or email/spam.

    According to the respected news writer, annoying someone via the Internet is now a federal crime after 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," says McCullagh.

    The offences are apparently buried in the Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act. Criminal penalties include stiff fines and up to two years in prison.

    "The use of the word 'annoy' is particularly problematic," Marv Johnson, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union is quoted as saying. "What's annoying to one person may not be annoying to someone else."

    The new federal law states that when US citizens annoy someone on the Internet, they must eschew the anonymous cloak of a "handle" and disclose their identity. Here's the relevant 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."

    Buried deep in the new law is Section 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."

    Sen. Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican, and the section's other sponsors included the law in an unrelated, must-pass bill to fund the Department of Justice. The tactic worked. The bill cleared the House of Representatives by voice vote, and the Senate unanimously approved it Dec. 16, passing it to the President for signing.

    McCullagh argues that there are perfectly legitimate reasons to set up a Web site or write something incendiary without telling everyone exactly who you are.

    He gives as an example the hypothetical case of a woman fired by a manager who demanded sexual favors who wants to blog about it without divulging her full name, or a frustrated citizen who wants to send an e-mail describing corruption in local government without worrying about reprisals.

    He points to the First Amendment that protects the right of Americans to write something that annoys someone else, and even shields the right to do it anonymously.

    In a U.S. Supreme Court precedent, Justice Clarence Thomas defended this principle in a 1995 case involving an Ohio woman who was punished for distributing anonymous political pamphlets.

    McCullagh concludes by suggesting that President Bush follow a course of action taken by his predecessor President Clinton a decade ago. Compelled to sign a massive telecommunications law, Clinton realised that the section of the law punishing abortion-related material on the Internet was unconstitutional, and he directed the Justice Department not to enforce it.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2005

    Re: Has anyone heard of this - is it true?

    Yep... it appears to refer to cyber-stalking...



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