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That Last Internet Comment You Just Wrote Would Probably Be Illegal Under New Arizona Bill

Right now, the Internet is incredibly upset over Arizona House Bill 2549, which has successfully passed both legislative houses and is now one signature from Gov. Jan Brewer away from being real. Why is everyone so upset? Basically because the law will make it illegal for them to ever again go on the Internet and describe the ways in which they’re upset.

Gosh, Arizona is restricting the Internet now? They must have heard that immigrants can get email addresses.

The bill is an update of an old telephone harassment statute to make it modern for the Interwebs. Unfortunately, someone somewhere seemed to forget that, while the Internet may have used phone lines back in the day, there’s quite a bit of difference between calling someone on the phone and making a comment on a website.

Lets look at the text of the bill. The capitalized words are the ones that have been added in the update:

A. It is unlawful for any person, with intent to terrify, intimidate,threaten, harass, annoy or offend, to use ANY ELECTRONIC OR DIGITAL DEVICE and use any obscene, lewd or profane language or suggest any lewd or lascivious act, or threaten to inflict physical harm to the person or property of any person. It is also unlawful to otherwise disturb by repeated anonymous ELECTRONIC OR DIGITAL COMMUNICATIONS the peace, quiet or right of privacy of any person at the place where COMMUNICATIONS were received.

B. Any offense committed by use of AN ELECTRONIC OR DIGITAL DEVICE as set forth in this section is deemed to have been committed at either the place where the COMMUNICATIONS originated or at the place where the COMMUNICATIONS were received.

C. Any person who violates this section is guilty of a class 1 misdemeanor.

D. FOR THE PURPOSES OF THIS SECTION, “ELECTRONIC OR DIGITAL DEVICE” INCLUDES ANY WIRED OR WIRELESS COMMUNICATION DEVICE AND MULTIMEDIA STORAGE DEVICE.

Look, I’m all for trying to stop cyber-bullying, however, incredibly draconian laws with ridiculously vague terms written by people who probably couldn’t find their own Discus in the dark isn’t the way to do it. That would be government-bullying.

Don’t believe me? Here’s a fun game. Try to comment on this post just as you would any other Mediaite post, but make sure not to use any “lewd language” that would in anyway imply that you intend to “annoy” anyone. For extra incentive, I’ll point out that a “class 1 misdemeanor” in Arizona can grab you a fine of $2,500 and up to six months in jail. Cool game, huh?

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