Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Annoying Anonymous Web Postings and Email Now a Crime

It's true. Declan McCullagh at news.com reported on Friday that you can't post annoying messages or send annoying messages any more without using your real name. It is a crime, punishable by two years in prison.

I thought McCullagh was mistaken. Such a crime is so dumb that it I figured he was misreading the amendments. After all, it is one of those convoluted amendments that are nearly impossible to follow.

But he is correct. Contained in the Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act are amendments to the telecommunications act.

The net effect of the amendments is that it is that annoying anonymous postings are now a crime.

Here is the section, as amended (and substituting definitions for defined terms:

Whoever...utilizes any device or software that can be used to originate telecommunications or other types of communications that are transmitted, in whole or in part, by the Internet... without disclosing his identity and with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass any person...who receives the communications...shall be fined under title 18 or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.

Has Congress lost its mind? Do they even have a clue what they did when they enacted this amendment?
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