Everybody's a Critic—and a 'Cyberbully,' Apparently

It was bad enough that a grandstanding U.S. attorney successfully prosecuted Lori Drew, a Missouri woman who participated in a cruel MySpace prank that apparently precipitated the 2006 suicide of 13-year-old Megan Meier, under an anti-hacking law that clearly was not intended for this sort of situation. Now Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) and 14 of her colleagues want to make such prosecutions easier through a breathtakingly broad bill that would criminalize a wide range of speech protected by the First Amendment. The Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act would make it a felony punishable by up to two years in prison to transmit an electronic communication ("including email, instant messaging, blogs, websites, telephones, and text messages") "with the intent to coerce, intimidate, harass, or cause substantial emotional distress to a person...to support severe, repeated, and hostile behavior." Off the top of his head, UCLA law professor (and Reason contributor) Eugene Volokh suggests half a dozen situations that could be covered by this law, all involving protected speech, including online criticism of politicians, angry demands for refunds from manufacturers of shoddy goods, calls for boycotts, and hostile messages to an ex-boyfriend. "The examples could be multiplied pretty much indefinitely," he writes at The Volokh Conspiracy. "The law, if enacted, would clearly be facially overbroad (and probably unconstitutionally vague), and would thus be struck down on its face under the First Amendment."

[via Hans Bader]

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  • ||

    Well, looks like Lone Whacko can file about 2000 suits...

  • Bags||

    Another pandering, piece of shit legislation named after a dead child. Who'd of thunk it.

  • Paul||

    Now Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) and 14 of her colleagues

    Wasn't there another thread where we were told that D's always opted for more liberty? Or will we get a long series of convoluted arguments as to how this will increase liberty. People will be free from the ravages of ugly comments and being called a poopy-head?

  • ||

    Hmm, this reminds me about Fordham Law Professor Joel Reidenberg and his class project to form a dossier of Justice Scalia. This was in response to Justice Scalia's comments that certain personal details are not legally protected as private online, though it may be bad judgment to collect them.

    Justice Scalia's response to the dossier was as follows:

    I stand by my remark at the Institute of American and Talmudic Law conference that it is silly to think that every single datum about my life is private. I was referring, of course, to whether every single datum about my life deserves privacy protection in law.

    It is not a rare phenomenon that what is legal may also be quite irresponsible. That appears in the First Amendment context all the time. What can be said often should not be said. Prof. Reidenberg's exercise is an example of perfectly legal, abominably poor judgment. Since he was not teaching a course in judgment, I presume he felt no responsibility to display any.



    Well said by Justice Scalia, and to my mind applies to the Lori Drew case. If only Rep. Sanchez (D-CA) and others could take that to heart.

  • Mad Max||

    Reason sucks

  • Mad Max||

    reason sucks

  • Mad Max||

    Reason su . . .

    Wait, officer, I haven't finishing using the Internet for harassment purposes!

  • Mister DNA||

    Another pandering, piece of shit legislation named after a dead child. Who'd of thunk it.



    No shit. It's only a matter of time before military appropriation bills are named after Dead White Girls.

    By the way, has Xeones been posting lately?

  • dood||

    More pc hilarity.

    Who could see that coming in the age of Obama?

  • ||

    Moynihan secretly can't wait for the signing ceremony. Before the ink dries on Obama's signature, Moynihan will be pressing charges against me and MNG.

  • Fluffy||

    I feel it important to note that, if this thread was about gay marriage, we'd be hearing from the usual parties all bent out of shape because the judiciary gets to decide what legislation is constitutional.

    Nobody wants to step up and complain about legislating from the bench on this one?

    Always remember: without judicial review, nonsense like this law is what you'll get - only a thousand-fold.

  • MNG||

    Sanchez is a very, very dumb person. I remember her since her upset of Dornan, she's one of the lightest of lightweights.

    Paul, this marks an area where, if most of those co-sponsors of the act are Democrats, I will readily say they are in the wrong.

    It sounds like an "uncommonly silly law." Strike that, an uncommonly wicked law.

    What kills me is that she couldn't think of a better law to get at people like the human poop pile that is Lori Drew? Like some kind of federal "knowing infliction of emotional distress on a minor" tort action? Jesus...

  • ||

    By the way, has Xeones been posting lately?

    Yes, but you can steal his phrase any time.

    Naming legislation after dead children is something that every politician feels they have to try at least once. It's just such an easy pander, how can the lazy fucks resist?

  • MNG||

    fluffy
    You're an oft mistaken libertarian tool (thank you ex-post facto clause), but very, very good point on judicial review...

  • MNG||

    "Yes, but you can steal his phrase any time."

    And he would SO hate it if I did it...Oh hell, can't wait:

    Yo, fuck Linda Sanchez (again, thanks ex post facto clause)

  • Paul||

    You're an oft mistaken libertarian tool

    This could mean several things...

    Anyhoo, time to git my swerve on...

  • ||

    MNG


    Loretta Sanchez upset B1 Bob. This is her sister.

  • ||

    I, for one, think that the prefixes "cyber-" and "e-" are to blame. It apparently makes normal shit seems lots scarier to politicians.

    "It's my new e-helmet... It's heavy as hell, but it is also cool as crap."

  • Mad Max||

    'Loretta Sanchez upset B1 Bob. [Linda Sanchez] is her sister.'

    I know a gal who lives on Capitol Hill
    She'll ignore the Constitution, just like her sister will.

  • ||

    Yet another Democrat fighting for your First Amendment rights.

  • MNG||

    Yunky
    Thanks for the info. Must run in the family...

  • MNG||

    Can I ask, wtf happened to Linda?

  • ||

    "The law, if enacted, would clearly be facially overbroad (and probably unconstitutionally vague), and would thus be struck down on its face under the First Amendment."



    And when it is struck down the voters of California's 39th Congressional will think "oh, those awful judges (who will most probably be liberals) hate children but, thank goodness, Linda Sanchez loves children."

    What delicious irony it is that this woman represents Tricky Dick's old district. Two people, who if you look at their lives, represent almost everything that is wrong with America.

  • Suki||

    "with the intent to coerce, intimidate, harass, or cause substantial emotional distress to a person...to support severe, repeated, and hostile behavior."

    There is quite a bit of existing law that covers threats against persons, coercion, extortion, etc. is there not?

    What difference does it make if it is online?

    Beloved boyfriend got his gun permit and was instructed to never ever again (as if he ever did this) challenge or invite any confrontation, just in case he ends up having to shoot someone in self defense (not sure about defense of others) they can't come back on him saying he started it. It is a whole long thing too! Making sure if someone bothering him and does not go away that he announces that they are scaring him or something.

    If you have to go through all that just to defend yourself, why does threatening people get a free pass?

  • ||

    Shut the fuck up, Lonewacko.



    We're all going to the big house.

  • MNG||

    "Two people, who if you look at their lives, represent almost everything that is wrong with America."

    Amen.

  • MNG||

    "There is quite a bit of existing law that covers threats against persons, coercion, extortion, etc. is there not?

    What difference does it make if it is online?"

    I'm not sure how an online version would ever be imminent, and only imminent threats, I think, should be actionable.

  • Suki||

    "There is quite a bit of existing law that covers threats against persons, coercion, extortion, etc. is there not?

    What difference does it make if it is online?"

    I'm not sure how an online version would ever be imminent, and only imminent threats, I think, should be actionable.

    YOU said "think" in first person? HAHA!

    Only "imminent" extortion should be actionable? Just what is that? How is nit different from the more common term of strong-armed threat?

    Only "imminent" coercion?

    Oh, it can't be imminent if it is online, so if the ransom note is sent via email that is fine, only the kidnapping can be prosecuted, if there even was a kidnapping.

    Gotcha!

    My sides are hurting now.

  • Anonymous||

    How do you expect to be part of the global community without changing your laws? You can't, that's how.

  • ||

    If Kennedy retires so Obama gets to replace him, I bet this Law would survive SCOTUS 5-4. It's possible it will without Kennedy retiring, depending on how the wind blows that day.

  • jtuf||

    We already have harassment laws. Just apply them rationally to the internet. There's no need for a separate law concerning electronic communitcations.

  • ||

    I feel it important to note that, if this thread was about gay marriage, we'd be hearing from the usual parties all bent out of shape because the judiciary gets to decide what legislation is constitutional.

    Ah, the smell of burning straw in the evening...

  • ||

    this law could shut down Daily Kos and quite a few others, I'd imagine...Sarah Palin and Ms California alone could keep the feds busy for months.

  • Suki||

    jtuf,

    Thank you.

  • ||

    I feel it important to note that, if this thread was about gay marriage, we'd be hearing from the usual parties all bent out of shape because the judiciary gets to decide what legislation is constitutional.

    C'mon. fluffy. Those of us who give a shit about separation of power and limited government think there is a very real difference between striking down a law to preserve negative liberties (ruling that this bill would be unconstitutional) and amending the law to create a positive obligation (amending, for example, CA law to change all references to "a man and a woman" to "two persons').

    If you don't get the difference, well, then its hard to have a serious conversation about the proper role of the judiciary, the value of separation of powers, or even limited government.

    Beloved boyfriend got his gun permit and was instructed to never ever again (as if he ever did this) challenge or invite any confrontation, just in case he ends up having to shoot someone in self defense (not sure about defense of others) they can't come back on him saying he started it.

    If he shoots someone properly, who exactly is this "they" who will be claiming that he started it?

    In my concealed carry class, my instructor was very much of the opinion that, if you ever have to shoot anyone, make damn sure they are dead. Dead people don't bring lawsuits or give testimony.

  • Suki||

    If he shoots someone properly, who exactly is this "they" who will be claiming that he started it?

    The relatives of the deceased, the prosecutor and or police talking to witnesses. Did you think they were on your side as soon as you got a permit? They aren't.

    In my concealed carry class, my instructor was very much of the opinion that, if you ever have to shoot anyone, make damn sure they are dead. Dead people don't bring lawsuits or give testimony.

    Did she tell you to kill all of the witnesses too? And the person's relatives?

    She bother to tell you to make sure people heard you say you in mortal fear before shooting? Since a lot of places want to make you the criminal if you shoot someone and you were not in fear of losing your life. Have heard lots of different wording to that, all means the same.

  • MNG||

    Oh I'm sorry Suki, I didn't read your post through (that's usually a waste a time) and so I thought you were talking about, well, the subject matter of the thread, which is a bill not about extortion or threats but about a bill criminalizing "email, instant messaging, blogs, websites, telephones, and text messages with the intent to coerce, intimidate, harass, or cause substantial emotional distress to a person..." And I replied that such things, which if imminent could possibly amount to a threat, could never be so online.

  • MNG||

    RC Dean
    Regardless of your negative liberty/positive liberty distinction the U.S. Constitution seems clearly to compel the striking down of laws in both areas (to protect negative and positive liberties), as I'm sure you would agree that it correctly compels the striking down of a law that bans interracial marriage for example.

  • Jesus||

    Dead people don't bring lawsuits or give testimony.

    *Ahem.*

  • ||

    a felony punishable by up to two years in prison to transmit an electronic communication ("including email, instant messaging, blogs, websites, telephones, and text messages") "with the intent to coerce, intimidate, harass, or cause substantial emotional distress to a person...to support severe, repeated, and hostile behavior."

    I'll get a lot more done once H&R is shut down.

  • H&R||

    P Brooks, are you trying to be hurtful?

  • alan||

    The Nameless Fetus Spicy Food Consumption by Pregnant Mothers Prevention Act of 2009.

  • alan||

    D'oh, in answer to this:

    Another pandering, piece of shit legislation named after a dead child. Who'd of thunk it.

  • Fluffy||

    C'mon. fluffy. Those of us who give a shit about separation of power and limited government think there is a very real difference between striking down a law to preserve negative liberties (ruling that this bill would be unconstitutional) and amending the law to create a positive obligation (amending, for example, CA law to change all references to "a man and a woman" to "two persons').

    If you don't get the difference, well, then its hard to have a serious conversation about the proper role of the judiciary, the value of separation of powers, or even limited government.


    This is even more disingenuous douchebaggery than I have come to expect from you, RC.

    The "negative right" in question here is the freedom to enter into a common contract. That freedom is granted to some citizens, but not others.

    The fact that stopping the state from continuing this unequal protection of the liberties of its citizens requires the state to edit the text of its laws does not make the right in question a "positive" right.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    It does, however, create a "positive right" to tax breaks.

    The "negative right" in question here is the freedom to enter into a common contract. That freedom is granted to some citizens, but not others.



    To be fair, everyone is disallowed same-sex marriage (in the state with said law); it's not de jure discriminatory.

    Oh, and before you flip the fuck out and try to swear up and down at me, I SUPPORT GAY MARRIAGE.

  • Naiomini Klein||

    I am not now nor at any time have been a cyber bully

  • Naiomini Klein||

    I might have been an AudioBully

    cus when they're on form they rock like the Clash

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BmVen_IjLPM

  • 3D||

    love the Clash...miss Joe Strummer.

  • ||

    Always remember: without judicial review, nonsense like this law is what you'll get - only a thousand-fold.

    With the Obama courts and the Obama Justice Department, nonsense like this law is what we get.

  • ||

    Humm, just shut up and never say a word as ANYTHING you can say will offend some thin skinned power over monger. And the lawyers will enrich lawyers.

    Seems that this whole thing is just totally out of hand...

  • MNG||

    "To be fair, everyone is disallowed same-sex marriage (in the state with said law); it's not de jure discriminatory."

    And in Virginia before the Loving case everyone (of all races) was disallowed a mixed-race marriage.

  • ||

    Ms. Sanchez's law makes perfect sense. There is too much bullying on the Internet, especially by right-wing neanderthals against good decent Americans. Many of these people, including some who have posted in this thread, could well benefit from two years in prison!

  • ||

    Ms. Sanchez's law makes perfect sense. There is too much bullying on the Internet, especially by right-wing neanderthals against good decent Americans. Many of these people, including some who have posted in this thread, could well benefit from two years in prison!

    You're talking about me, aren't you? I'll see you in court, fuckwad!

  • ||

    "The relatives of the deceased, the prosecutor and or police talking to witnesses. Did you think they were on your side as soon as you got a permit? They aren't."

    This is why I live in Texas, which passed a specific law that said if I shoot a burglar in my yard, neither the burglar nor his relatives can say jack squat.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    MNG -

    And that law was found un_________ based on the _______th Amendment.

    Fill in the blanks, big guy.

  • Crafty Hunter||

    Rep. Linda Sanchez eats sheep excrement, and loves it!

    Rep. Linda Sanchez eats sheep excrement, and loves it!

    Rep. Linda Sanchez eats sheep excrement, and loves it!

    There, I've just purposefully and maliciously and repeatedly transmitted an electronic communication to a blog with the specific intent to intimidate with the threat of ridicule and social ostracism, to harass with my own ridicule, and to cause substantial emotional distress to the party mentioned in the above statements.

    I say to the above party, "Suck it, vermin."

    Oh, look! I did it again!

  • ||

    It should be illegal to name ANY law after a (i) dead person (ii) one of the purported victims the law would have helped or (iii) a politician.

  • @ H. Blix||

    And the name for the law that prohibits such naming shall be...?

  • Yael||

    What a busy little bee. Sanchez is also working on reparations for African Americans http://tiny.cc/GLtEn and "gun control" http://tiny.cc/bcw3O

  • MNG||

    TAO

    ?

    The VA law was found unconstitutional under the 14th. Which is the same part the pro-same sex marriage folks say is being violated by same sex marriage bans. In the first situation the law applied equally to all people (no one could marry one of the opposite race) and in the second the law applied equally to all people (no one can marry one of the opposite sex). You find the latter situation to be non-discriminatory (TAO@3:06), do you find so with the first?

    So I'm not sure what you're getting at. Are you?

  • The Angry Optimist||

    The 14th Amendment was on-point relating to race. For that and many other reasons, administrative decisions and legislation based on race are subject to strict scrutiny.

    I don't know if I've seen a compelling reason to elevate the scrutiny with respect to "sexuality". I'm asking you to lay out the case.

  • MNG||

    TAO
    But your general point, apart from Equal Protection case law, was that barring same sex marriage doesn't really discriminate because nobody can get one, and I pointed out that by that logic the law in Loving did discriminate because no one could get an interracial marriage either.

    As to your Equal Protection question (a different one btw), I think under Carolene Products the case could be made, and I've made it on other threads, but have to go now. I'll try to come back and re-make it (I should save it on Word for Pete's Sake!)

  • Bob A||

    Linda Sanchez is dirty.

  • ||

    I cannot believe that you guys can type. The way your knuckles must be scraped up from dragging on the ground!! This is especially for Mad Max and MR DNA...

  • 3D||

    Texas passed an internet harassment bill last October. H.B. 2003.

    Only a matter of time. The bill, both the state and federal, IS overbroad. On the other hand, having been harassed by someone on a chatboard for a number of years, complete with indication that individual had obtained access to personal, immediate data and info about me coupled with bizarre phone calls and other assorted, seemingly associated occurrences, it would be nice to have a way to track some of these people down...(mine was using a proxy server).

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