Trolling Will Soon Be Illegal In Arizona

Trolling Will Soon Be Illegal In Arizona

One of the Internet’s basic tenets — the right to be as much of a myopic, infantile asshat as humanly possible — is currently under attack in Arizona. A sweeping update to the state’s telecommunications harrasment bill could make naughty, angry words a class 1 misdemeanour — or worse.

Arizona House Bill 2549 passed both legislative houses last Thursday and is now awaiting approval from Arizona’s governor Brewer. The statute states that,

“It is unlawful for any person, with intent to terrify, intimidate, threaten, harass, annoy or offend, to use a 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.”

If the electronic devices and means are employed to stalk a victim, the penalty bumps up to a class 3 felony.

Opponents of the bill argue that the wording is overly broad and could easily be interpreted to include not just one-on-one communications but public forums like 4Chan, Reddit, and anywhere else that allows commenting. It could also have a chilling effect on free speech by prohibiting shocking or “profane” language online. And since the bill stipulates that the offence only has to occur on Arizona soil, that basically puts the entire Internet on notice.

Proponents of the bill argue that the steps are necessary to prevent online bullying. Despite the public outcry, the bill has seen very little resistance from elected officials. However, given how well Arizona’s other recent, short-lived, and generally draconian propositions — -including its racial profiling, anti-gay adoption, and anti-immigration bills — -have fared, House Bill 2549 might not be a law for long, assuming Governor Brewer even signs it. [Arizona State House of Reps via CBLDF]


  • FFS, when will these politicians realise that you cannot censor the internet? Also, how the hell do they expect to police this?

    • “It is unlawful for any person, with intent to terrify, intimidate, threaten, harass, annoy or offend, to use a 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.”

      Most of that’s illegal for no computers, so I see no problem with a lot of it.

      • Except attempting to apply this to the internet doesn’t work because the person can be anywhere in the world when they post, not just next door or the next town over. American State laws do not apply to us here in Australia, or in Japan, or in Korea, etc. Then there’s the fact that there is no possible way for them to prove that the person who’s IP it was posted from was the actual poster given the invisible-proxy software we see these days, among other things. This law was conceived by people who have little to no understanding of how the internet actually works.

        • The people enforcing the laws are the same, which means this would really only be used in cases such as harassment over Facebook or the identity is admitted. Then and otherwise, it would really just be a warning.

  • This is insane, how on earth will they possibly police this? IP addresses can be masked and then there would be an easy defence of what “annoy or offend” exactly constitutes…. it defies belief.

    • Quite an appropriate closing remark. I imagine that defying belief will be one of the first exploitations of this law when someone responds to talk of imaginary friends with… well… reality and then gets sued or arrested for it.

  • While I hate censorship in any form, I have to support this but ONLY if the wording is changed to make it less broad and more specifically about harassment, which seems to be the intended purpose. Internet harassment is no joke, but simple trolling shouldn’t be confused with it, and that’s what this current proposition is doing.

  • Yeah, this is just stupid. Why don’t you put effort into educating kids on how to use the internet properly. the shit will always be there.

  • That’s really not the defintion of trolling… that’s just a list of things that constitutes verbal abuse. : /

    • Trolling is abuse – abuse for the fun of it. I agree it has to stop, but I can’t imagine them policing it

      • Trolling is being annoying. As the law states:

        “with intent to terrify, intimidate, threaten, harass, annoy or offend”

        Therefore, as you say, the term “annoy” does refer to trolling. That said, the rest of the bill I agree with.

  • Haha, and with our bullshit dumbarse laws, no doubt they will be trying to extradite Aussies for being Aussies – In Australia! Bring it on rednecks!

    • Tell me about it. They censored the words “bloody”, “bugga” and “bugger” on the Australian SW:TOR servers. Given how in-grained those words, and hundreds of others like them, are into Australian society, it’s tragic.

      • yes, but he was charged mostly due to the fact that he defaced facebook pages with images of child pornography. This fact alone meant he was charged primarily with possession and distribution of child exploitation material, and those charges would be where most, if not all of the jail time he was sentenced to would come from.

        • Wrong. The law he was prosecuted under is “Using a carriage service to cause offense.” Look it up. The same laws that apply to telephone calls apply to the internet in Australia.

          • the important part ther is “to cause offense”. IANAL but I suspect there is a degree of legal definition in that… eg if something was said to be humorous it was not said “to cause offence”. In the case mentioned above the sole purpose was to be offensive, there were no insigts, no usefull information passed on, and the only people to find it amusing would be those who did it.
            If the law was simply “Using a carriage service to cause offense” Channel Ten would be history as Big Brother offended my sensibilities (not to mention all the other Real TV garbage they -and others- push nowdays).

  • This is completely logical move to adapt to new technology, if we recognise that calling someone or sending repeated letters to someone is a form of harassment, why shouldn’t communicating via the internet be treated the same way.

  • This won’t even stop trolling. The best trolls don’t use swear words or post disturbing pictures – no, the best trolls take quotes out of context, reuse old arguments that convince no one and doggedly create posts that they know will just start a fight. You don’t have to be rude to be a troll, you don’t have to swear to make people angry. Sometimes the most poisonous, hurtful things can be said with a smile and a please/sir/madam/thankyou.

    It’s also unenforceable, so I wouldn’t worry too much about it.

    • That’s because “U MAD?” never started with trollface. It was originally “Problem?” which Fled already covered. “U MAD?” was adapted to trollface afterwards.

      Problem, Neo-Kaiser?

  • This is a good idea. I don’t see it as a bill to stop trolling. It seems more targeted at bullying and harassment. I guess at the moment the law cannot do a lot about cyber bullying or threats and harassment so it sounds like this’d give police the ability to actually do something more than warn people.

  • Politicians annoy and offend me. Does this mean we can finally do something to stop the flow of of fecal matter that spews out of their mouth when they open it?

  • As I saw in the comments on an article about English law (paraphrasing):
    You cant make it illegal to be a jerk, that would be insane…
    This isn’t making it ilegal to be a jerk… it’s making it ilegal to be a jerk online.

  • 100 billion words per minute (or per second) is typed on the internet. good luck policing that shit.

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