E-Stalking legislation (AB 919): A good idea?

Cross-posted from Calitics

Stalking is a serious crime. It is frightening for the victim and their family and a violation of the sense of privacy that we all should have.


So, in that vein, Howdy Doody Asm. Guy Houston has put forward AB 919 in order to combat the threat of e-stalking. It's a serious problem.  Recently, several female bloggers have received threats, and "cyber-bullies" have been causing havoc in schools.


However, I'm a little concerned about this.  It has a great potential for abuse.  Well, let's check the statute over the flip

Every person who, with intent to place another person in reasonable fear for his or her safety, or the safety of the other person's immediate family, by means of an electronic communication device, and without consent of the other person, and for the purpose of causing that other person unwanted physical contact, injury, or harassment, by a third party, electronically distributes, publishes, e-mails, hyperlinks, or makes available for downloading, personal identifying information, including, but not limited to, a digital image of another person, or an electronic message of a harassing nature about another person, is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in the county jail, by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both that fine and imprisonment.


The thing about this? It's pretty open to interpretation, and one could imagine an overzealous (perhaps politically motivated) prosecutor abusing this legislation. Not that anybody would do that (I'm looking at you, OC).  So, to me, this bans the outing of anonymous bloggers.  So, well, maybe this is a good bill.  Time to arrest Michelle Malkin. 


But seriously, determining intent on the internet seems a very tricky question.  Perhaps there should be an exception for people who inject themselves into notoreity, either in the blogosphere or you know, the real worls.  So,if I say I'm going to kick some TheLiberalOC.com ass. Yeah, Chris Prevatt, I'm coming for you!


So,  how does one determine that I'm joking? Here it's obvious, but it's not always that easy.  Are we really ready to start regulating speech like this?


The bill moved out of the Public Safety Cmte and is now at the Appropriations Cmte. So, consider contacting your Assembly members and asking them to slow this bill down.

Tags: AB 919, California, Guy Houston, stalking (all tags)

Comments

5 Comments

Re: E-Stalking legislation (AB 919): A good idea?

Hm.

To me the key sentence is:

with intent to place another person in reasonable fear for his or her safety

If this clause is necessary for the law to apply and interpreted in a reasonable manner, then I think the law is a good and maybe even a necessary one. If it's omitted or breezed past in attempted enforcement of this law, we've just created some very serious free speech programs because the remainder of the language here is very broad.

by Silent sound 2007-05-02 01:22PM | 0 recs
Re: E-Stalking legislation (AB 919): A good idea?

just as Silent sound said, the key sentence is
with intent to place another person in reasonable fear for his or her safety

This is a very serious problem and women's first amendment rights won't mean a lot if cyber bullies are allowed to threaten us online.

by Alice Marshall 2007-05-02 02:25PM | 0 recs
How do you determine intent?

All I'm saying is that intent is a difficult fact to prove, and this has the potential to be abused.  Will it be abused? Who knows...

Also, I see no reason why we need a special law for this. If you are threatening somebody online, regular laws still apply. Why the special law?

by utbrian 2007-05-02 02:52PM | 0 recs
Re: E-Stalking legislation (AB 919): A good idea?

Guy Houston, in his press release refers to this bill as his "Legislation To Stop Reckless Internet Postings." It seems to me that there is a really significant distinction to be drawn between "dangerous" or "threatening" and "reckless."

Here's an example off the top of my head. In last fall's CA-11 race, I ran this post at SayNoToPombo. Pombo had sent out a campaign letter to voters with his home phone number, telling them to call him if they had any questions. Hank Shaw of the Stockton Record printed an excerpt from the letter along with the phone number, and I posted that along with a list of suggested questions, most of which were pretty politically hostile. My post got picked up by Jesus' General and TPM. And it turned out that indeed the phone number was his home number, and lots of people called and talked mostly to his wife.

Now, technically, I would be guilty under the above-referenced law. I put out personal information and incited third parties to engage in unwanted harassment using an electronic medium. Was what I did out of bounds? I don't know. Personally, I don't think so. I know that I wouldn't have hunted down his number and published it if he hadn't sent out in a campaign letter in the first place; after that, I figured it was fair game. This legislation doesn't seem to make a lot of distinctions, though.

by babaloo 2007-05-02 03:07PM | 0 recs
Re: E-Stalking legislation (AB 919): A good idea?

I like the intention of this bill. I'm tired of all the otherwise 98-pound weaklings emboldened by the cloak of anonymity the Internet provides to commit crimes against people they wouldn't have the courage to do in public....This bill points up only one example....The news is filled daily with stories of id theft, which amounts to mugging a person from long-distance. And the governemnt has passed tons of laws prohibiting all forms of id theft and various related cybercrimes. Entire bodies of governemnt and new bureaucracies have been created to fight it...And this bill is similar.

Regardless of how I feel, though, it's important to remeber what the 1st Amendment to the US Constitution says:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Regardless of the intention of the speech, the Constitution's language is not really open to interpretation: "Congess shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech," thus any law anywhere in any way abridging the freedom of speech--like, for example, the MPAA's rating system, or like Al Gore's wife did when she got the bill puttng warning labels on CD's  with swear words in them passed, etc., are unconstitutional.

by anonymus 2007-05-04 04:52AM | 0 recs

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