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Arizona Criminalizes Lewd and Annoying Acts on the Internet

by Sean P. Aune | April 1, 2012April 1, 2012 2:00 pm PDT

Arizona flag on an iMac

If you live in Arizona, you might want to prepare yourself for the moment where pretty much everything ever said on the Internet becomes illegal.

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF) is spearheading an effort to educate people about a bill currently passing through the Arizona state House of Representatives, H.B. 2549 (PDF link).  The bill is an attempt to expand an existing law about harassing phone calls to also cover the Internet and other electronic means of communication.  The problem, however, is just how stunningly broad the wording of the law is.  As the CBLDF points out:

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.

In short, there is pretty much nothing that could be said on the Internet should this law pass.  If what you say offends even one person, you’re breaking the law.  So imagine if you get into a political discussion in the comments section of a site, someone cries “I’m offended,” and you’re done and possibly in jail.

While the CBLDF is concerned for the potential impact on comic creators and cartoonists, it’s easy to see just how far this could reach should it pass.  Imagine sites like Reddit, 4chan or even the comments people leave on a site like YouTube and you can see just how quickly this could spin out of control.  The only thing between this and a law right now is the signature of Gov. Jan Brewer, and no word yet on what her plans are at this time.

[via CBDLF]


Sean P. Aune

Sean P. Aune has been a professional technology blogger since July 2007, but his love of tech dates back to at least 1976 when his parents bought...

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