Arizona's Dumb Attempt To Outlaw Trolling Tramples All Over The First Amendment, Naturally

Senior Contributor
04.03.12 4 Comments

Oh brother — here we go again.

For all the stereotyping of liberals as whiny butthurt people who can’t take a joke, conservative state legislatures really seem to love passing laws that prevent their delicate eyes and ears from witnessing anything they may find remotely offensive. Tennessee tried it last year, and now Arizona, which has really been trying hard to stake its claim as America’s most a$s-backwards state in recent years, is trying to pass a similar law.

Media Coalition, an anti-censorship group, sums the bill up quite nicely:

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. “Lewd” is generally understood to mean lusty or sexual in nature and “profane” is generally defined as disrespectful or irreverent about religion or religious practices.

Before you ask, yes, you could argue that this bill is trying to ban porn and people saying mean things about fundamentalist Christians (we’re sure R/Atheism is terrified), but odds are what it’s actually trying to do, and what the Tennessee legislation claimed they were also trying to do, was limit cyber-bullying. Which is fine, but you simply can’t write laws that are this broad and vague and left open to wild interpretation.

The bill isn’t law yet, but it’s passed both houses and is sitting on dimly lit Governor Jan Brewer’s desk. Considering all the other crazy and blatantly unconstitutional legislation she’s signed, though, we won’t be surprised if Arizona is being dragged to the Supreme Court. Again.

And this time Keyboard Cat won’t be around to save her…

(Image courtesy dherrera_96 on Flickr)

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