No "Obscene, Lewd or Profane" Language? There Goes Twitter

If there's any point to the Internet other than the use of "obscene, lewd or profane language," that purpose may have slipped by a few of us, especially if that language is uttered "with intent to terrify, intimidate, threaten, harass, annoy or offend." But outlawing just that is the aim of HB 2549, a bill that passed both houses of Arizona's often-entertaining and frequently appalling legislature.

The legislation has been sold as an anti-stalking measure, but it would seem to have somewhat wider application. How wide? It's hard to tell, because the bill throws around a lot of loosely defined verbiage. Warns the Media Coalition in a memo (PDF):

H.B. 2549 would make it a crime to use any electronic or digital device to communicate using obscene, lewd or profane language or to suggest a lewd or lascivious act if done with intent to “annoy,” “offend,” “harass” or “terrify.” The legislation offers no definitions for “annoy,” “offend,” “harass” or “terrify.” “Electronic or digital device” is defined only as any wired or wireless communication device and multimedia storage device. “Lewd” and “profane” are not defined in the statute or by reference.

The Coalition also points out:

H.B. 2549 is not limited to a one to one conversation between two specific people. It would apply to general communication on web sites, blogs, listserves and other Internet communication. The communication does not need to be repetitive or even unwanted. There is no requirement that the recipient or subject of the speech actually feel offended, annoyed or scared. Nor does the legislation make clear that the communication must be intended to offend or annoy a specific person.

Law professor and blogger Eugene Volokh, who has a little experience with the whole First Amendment thing, illustrates the potential dangers of the bill with a scenario that's not uncommon these days:

[U]nder the statute, posting a comment to a newspaper article — or a blog — saying that the article or post author is “fucking out of line” would be a crime: It’s said with intent to offend, it uses an electronic or digital device, and it uses what likely will be seen as profane language.

Hmmm ... Could that ever be a concern around Hit & Run?

Fortunately, says Volokh, Arizonans may be spared visits from the online good-manners police, because the legislation ventures so far out of constitutional bounds.

[G]iven the First Amendment, the government may not restrict such speech on blogs, e-mail discussion lists, and newspaper Web sites. If the Arizona Legislature wants to apply the ban on telephone harassment to other one-to-one devices, such as text messaging or e-mails sent directly to a recipient, it may well be free to do so.

The proposed law hasn't just caught the attention of constitutional advocates -- Anonymous has chimed in, urging followers on Twitter to fax "butthurt report forms" to state officials, complaining that they've been offended online.

Faxing "butthurt report forms"? Isn't that an act of harassment?

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  • Pro Libertate||

    Hey, facially unconstitutional. Thanks for making it easy, folks!

  • plu1959||

    If state legisblobs weren't so dumb, I'd assume it's their way of appearing to do something without having to suffer any consequences.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Maybe Arizona should make people register to use the internet.

  • ||

    Hugh, what does the Typical Libertarian think of registration?

    Also, you really must keep that incorrigible blackguard Typical Libertarian under control. He's been out terrorizing poor little Van Jones again.

  • Xenocles||

    With the disaster threads had become lately, I welcome it.

  • ||

    Oh, as do I. I just figured it was worth checking if Hugh had any word from the oracle that is the Typical Libertarian, or if not, to at least set him up to refer me back to the contents of his pants, this being the lewd thread and all.

  • Hugh Akston||

    I'm nominally okay with registration. Hopefully it makes H&R a little more civilized.

    I brought your question up with the typical libertarian and he said it obviously wasn't much of a filter if it lets women express opinions.

  • AlmightyJB||

    that was funny.

  • Aresen||

    As an atypical libertarian, I'm OK with it.

    Right now, I am just seeing if the registration process worked so that I can continue posting from the Great White Pacific Northwest.

  • plu1959||

    It's Reason's property, so Reason gets to make the rules.

    If I don't like them, I can take my inane comments elsewhere. Or file a Butthurt Report.

  • AlmightyJB||

    I agree. I will miss the joke handles though. Well worth it if we can get on the threads on the weekend. I guess we'll find out how that works soon enough.

  • deep fried wylie||

    not that i'm the 1st to point it out today, but it bears repeating:

    joke handles still work.

  • fried wylie||

    see. it takes like 30-45secs to change it in your profile settings.

  • fried wylie||

    and then i got down lower in the thread.

    guess I'm just lucky noone stole "fried wylie" while i was busy exposing my ignorance.

    in any event, I'm betting the head squirrel trainer is working out a proper joke handle solution.

  • PaganPriestess||

    That's okay some creep already swiped Priestess....I'm not happy

  • Bingo||

    Arizona is fast approaching a perfect storm of the worst TEAM BLUE nannyism (thanks CA refugees!) and the TEAM RED love of authority.

    This state is so fucked.

  • Brendan||

    I hearby move that we refer to such states as 'purple nurples' from this point on.

  • Anomalous||

    Second! All in favor say Aye!

  • Voros McCracken||

    I really don't feel like moving. Is there some way I could win office and put a stop to this?

  • pmains||

    Become a Precinct Committeeman. You only have to show up for one meeting per month, but you get to vote on the party platform and, I believe, certain party officials. Collecting the signatures to get on the ballot should take no longer than 3 hours of knocking on doors.

  • ||

    Move to AZ CD7 and you have my vote

  • Anarcho Cosmo||

    At least you're neighbors with both Colorado and Nevada. I don't know how bad New Mexico has gotten since Johnson left office.

  • Brett L||

    What would be posted on the internet under these rules? LOLCats?

  • Pro Libertate||

    No, as they are lewd and annoying.

  • ||

    They are also obscene to anybody with a functioning sense of humor.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Bewbs.

  • Ska||

    There is a checkbox on the official butthurt form specifically for LOLcats.

    Surprisingly there are no boxes for failblog or memebase.

  • ||

    What about TV Tropes? I'm sure there is offensive, lewd, and overall disgusting content contained therein.

  • Voros McCracken||

    I can haz go fux yourzelf

  • ||

    Did Ken Schultz write the bill?

  • BakedPenguin||

    I'm glad I swallowed my tea prior to reading this.

  • JW||

    Winner.

  • ||

    I'm sure the BO administration will sue them over this legislation.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    heh, heh, good one.

  • ||

    Hey, fuck you, Tuccille. Your article is fucking stupid. It's stupider than a Welch article.

  • ||

    Hey, fuck you Epi. Your comment is lewd, profane, and full of teh dumb. :)

    (I'm assuming the above was meant as meta-irony)

  • ||

    Fuck yeah it was, you moron!

  • Brett L||

    Is this how we welcome new contributors now?

  • ||

    It can be.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Don't be absurd. That's only for contributors from Arizona.

  • ||

    SOD knows they fucking need it, with their fucking blue laws, and common fucking decency...and well, another fuck for good measure.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Also, they gave us McCain and are, therefore, responsible for Obama.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Don't forget Joe Arpaio.

  • Hugh Akston||

    They've come a long way since they sent Mr. Goldwater to Washington.

  • fried wylie||

    Also, they gave us McCain and are, therefore, responsible for Obama.

    *does some math on a napkin*

    How about that, it checks out.

  • Brutus||

    Do you have to be an idiot to be a legislator in Arizona?

  • Hugh Akston||

    No, but it helps.

  • William Bruce||

    If there's a residency requirement...

  • Voros McCracken||

    I just can't be offended at any of this.

  • Aresen||

    I believe the "Coniving, scheming, amoral powerseeker who will do anything to get elected or re-elected" qualification trumps the "abyssmally stupid" requirement in all jurisdictions.

  • David_TheMan||

    Government doing what it is prone to do, nothing to see here. Move along.

  • ||

    A Google of JD Tuccille reveals he wrote a book about "sexual eccentricity" and pyromania. Playing to your libertarian audience just a bit there, eh JD?

    On topic: fuck these fucking cuntrags.

  • ||

    If you love somebody why not set them on fire?

  • dbcooper||

    Ha! :)

    And a quick thank you to Reasonable and the registration system.

  • Killazontherun||

    Yesterday, I would have switched my name up to Arthur Shawcross, and put in a comment like, 'but I like my pussy cold'. Most would be like 'huh?', but the few who got it would be like, 'woah, that's creepy.' Can't do that now, unfortunately. Thanks, W I Rather. Thank you so much.

  • Spoof Handle||

    You can't? You can still spoof handle, you click on your handle and update your screen name. I don't think that you can click back so you might have to go back to the article first, like I did here.

  • Killazontherun||

    That's a lot of effort. I'm a blog commenter. Effort, really?

  • ||

    Unionista...I hope you throw a clot and get jock itch.

  • Killazontherun||

    You'll treat it and not even get fully reimbursed, so who is the schmuck now?

  • Brian Combs||

    I don't know. Some might consider a serial killer joke to be worth the effort.

  • Killazontherun||

    Can't risk a name grab. Stories like that usually end with Nick G. yelling at the squirrels, 'get it the way from me' in his broken English ethnic Ohioan accent. I'll never get to hear those stories of rooming with Matt on the tour on the next cruise.

  • Killazontherun||

    Can someone waiting in the wings see a handle change to an obscure serial killer that tips them off that it is me then jump in and grab my name while I'm not using it?

  • Joe M||

    Yes, exactly.

  • Joe M||

    I just tested it, and yes, if you switch your name, your old name is available.

  • ||

    So guys, just have a separate account for your spoofing. Logout of your regular one and then log into the new one.

  • Joe M||

    Yes, I think the main thing is you can't spoof anyone else's account name now, but you can switch yours around as much as you want.

    However, there is a bigger question: if you switch your display name temporarily to spoof, does that leave your "primary" name unprotected, such that someone else could grab it? Could it be a white elephant handle spoofing situation?

  • ||

    I'm pretty sure your "primary" handle has a 1-to-1 association with your email.

  • Killazontherun||

    That would be how 99.9% of the industry would do it, but they are not ran by crack smoking squirrels.

  • ||

    You forgot "donkey raping shit eaters".

  • ||

    Speaking of which, is Arthur Alan Wolk taken? What about Goat Fucker?

  • Joe M||

    Well, it kinda makes sense. Goes along with the free-wheeling nature of the site. In fact, I'd be willing to bet they intentionally set it up like that to allow us to continue with our clever spoofing.

  • Joe M||

    No, that's not the case. If you change it, someone else can grab it.

  • ||

    Prove it. Change yours and let Mary steal it.

  • Joe M||

    Already did. I have a second e-mail account here, and I used my main name with that account for a few posts.

  • Joe M||

    But, if you'd like to change your name for a moment, I can give you another demonstration...

  • ||

    Don't make me call myself Joe N, Joe M. Or Joe Momma.

  • Brian Combs||

    Your email is the login and so unchangeable. The "name" can be anything you want, as long as no one else is using it at that time.

  • Killazontherun||

    Besides, it's a new era. It is time to leave the old gags behind and develop as a commenter. I'm thinking about upping the racism. I've always been much more of a misogynist than straight up racist. More sympathy for the bitches aping an almost MNG like sincerity, and more rancid comments aimed at those who don't look like me with an extra implied bitterness that can't be mistaken irony.

  • 0x90||

    Yep, and for that reason, it wouldn't exactly be rocket science to implement arbitrary per-post display names. And you need that...the whole thing with the joke handle is spontaneity. Can you imagine a republican debate thread, as things work now? So get on it, squirrels.

  • Mitt Romney||

    I approve this message.

  • Barack Obama||

    I also approve this message.

  • fried wylie||

    So get on it, squirrels.

    I think people have gotten squirrels' role in the infrastructure all mixed up.

    The squirrels are the computational elements. They don't design the website, they make it run.

    I would recommend addressing design suggestions/complaints to the guys who tame, train, husband, whatever, the squirrels.

  • Ron Paul||

    I would approve this, but it is not in the constitution.

  • sarcasmic||

    Maybe we can have some fun, maybe we can burn someone!

  • Killazontherun||

    Or, put them on ice?

  • Clara Madison||

    Free Speech has never been as close to death as it is now in this country...

  • ||

    Is this more "we must do something, this is something..." or is it the sort of thing that's proposed but never intended to pass in order to placate some noisy subset of voters?

  • sticks||

    cunt my fuck

  • Proprietist||

    Shut up! Ken's going to get butthurt.

  • Killazontherun||

    Needs a rewrite for the times.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zrFOb_f7ubw

  • ||

    My homage to erstwhile commenter, Xenones:

    "Yo, fuck Twitter!"

  • AlmightyJB||

    santorum santorum santorum santorum

  • ||

    Now, THAT offends me!

  • Doctor Whom||

    I'd like the free-speech platter with void-for-vagueness sauce, please.

  • Jerryskids||

    I liked Popehats take on it better - when Connecticut proposed the same thing.

  • GILMORE||

    The legislation offers no definitions for “annoy,” “offend,” “harass”...

    See: "White Indian"

  • Killazontherun||

    And just like my invitations for Illinois for its gun laws, they are welcome to leave the union anytime they want to if the Constitution is not to their liking.

  • Joe M||

    Just to be safe, we should make it a crime to use any electronic or digital device to communicate, period.

  • Killazontherun||

    That's the aim. Meantime, fucking with us is the game plan.

  • ||

    I am so going to miss reading 400 Primitard posts on every thread. 47 comments and not a single off topic WI link so far.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Do you ever think we'll miss the Pale Papoose the way we miss DONDEROOOOOOOO or el Loco Solitario?

  • ||

    Like a scorching case of herpes.

  • Hugh Akston||

    I think we all miss the pre-op Jennifer Grey.

  • ||

    Both good analogies.

  • Tulpa2||

    You do realize both of them probably got the same "invitation to register" email that the rest of us did?

  • AlmightyJB||

    Let's hope that continues. Weekends have been really bad so that will be the real test.

  • plu1959||

    Eugene Volokh could eat three Larry Tribes without breaking a sweat.

    The guy is that good.

  • fursa||

    Makes me surprised Santorum didn't carry AZ by a landslide.

  • Fluffy||

    I think I may be the first person to get a post stricken by mods!

    Yay me!!!!

  • Killazontherun||

    Did you pop the new intern's cherry? Sweet. I did the same to Mike Riggs some time back.

  • ||

    So you did. Where's Saccharin Man?

  • ||

    What did you get burned for?

  • plu1959||

    Yeah, spill it.

    And what are the rules, anyway? Let's have a look at them.

  • Fluffy||

    The first post in this thread was originally "FUCK YOU MARY!"

    I figured it was on-topic because it was a profane post intended to annoy.

    I came back to see if I had succeeded, and my post was gone.

    HOORAH MODS!

    When do I get to be a mod?

  • JW||

    Since SaccharineMan and I are already running, that means you'll need to collect 5000 signatures and a Tijuana donkey to get your name on the ballot.

    Just knock and leave the donkey at the front door.

  • Bomble||

    Sadly, Arizona (a state with a lot of libertarians) has become ground zero for stupid laws lately.

  • Anarcho Cosmo||

    California has a lot of libertarians, in fact ground zero for the modern day libertarian movement was the Bay Area in the late sixties, but that never prevented California from becoming what they are now. California also has a lot of gun owners, pot smokers and pit bull owners. I can go on and on.

  • ||

    Maybe I need to get into a 12 step program to end my addiction to online commenting. I was at a resturaunt earlier and read this article on my iphone. I had a powerful urge to weigh in and couldnt wait to come home to my computer.

  • JW||

    I'm very sorry, but you're one of us now.

  • 0x90||

    There is no normal. You're not the one with the problem. What problem?

  • ||

    Is there some reason you couldn't just comment from your phone? I do.

  • ||

    I am used to seeing these kinds of laws. There is alot to be said for Louisiana and I love the place, but my god we have some dumbshits for lawmakers. We pass this kind of crap all the time. It is pandering to an overly emotional constituency with laws that they know damn well will be struck down. When they are struck down the lawmakers blame it on the courts and say 'hey, I tried to do something about it!'.

    I am proud to say that at least the courts put an end to this crap, most of the time that is. Not too many years back a guy got a law stricken that made it a crime to say 'fuck you' to a cop. I was shocked.

  • BoscoH||

    Ok, what happens if instead of Fuck you!, I exclaim, Fuck me!? Does Joe Arpaio arrest me for solicitation?

  • donkey show||

    what will they outlaw next?

  • TiggyFooo||

    Welcome to the New Regime, its kinda scary dude, for real!

    www.Surf-Tools.tk

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