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Imprisonment for Annoying People Online

According to CNet’s News.com, create an e-annoyance and you can go to jail.

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…Clinton Fein, a San Francisco resident who runs the Annoy.com site, says a feature permitting visitors to send obnoxious and profane postcards through e-mail could be imperiled.

“Who decides what’s annoying? That’s the ultimate question,” Fein said. He added: “If you send an annoying message via the United States Post Office, do you have to reveal your identity?”

It seems that this new law is riddled with loop holes and troubles which will be tested, if this is ever enforced. Still, it pays to be informed, so consider yourself informed and go annoy someone else. ;-)


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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen

2 Comments

  1. Posted February 23, 2006 at 6:41 am | Permalink

    Some days it is really nice to know that (being in the UK) Mr Bush has much less chance of governing me!

  2. experimentia
    Posted January 28, 2008 at 12:18 am | Permalink

    I wish that law was only applicable if the annoyance was on a government website, or identical annoying messages to a broad range of websites. What is annoying? What about age — if a 7 year old writes something annoying, will they get arrested? It’s a sneaky add-in for politicians to censor their accusers, methinks. Uh oh, now I’ve annoyed someone! Call the police, probe and track me down. It would be better these days to make a law making it illegal to be annoyed.


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