Strange Brouhaha

Monday, January 09, 2006

I'm speechless. Here's why.

Say goodbye to your First Amendment right to anonymously criticize the government, now that Congress has passed the DoJ appropriations bill and the Emperor has signed it into law. Why? Well, because it inexplicably contains a rider that prohibits anyone from using the Internet anonymously "with intent to annoy." CNET has a good article on the subject.

While I think that it would be just fine if we could trust that the law would be interpreted as intended (in other words, as a way to stop anonymous harassment), the fact is that we can't. And "annoy" is such a nebulous word. When we were running the late, lamented Chunky Boy's FA server, we had a lot of annoying users. I wouldn't wish jail on any of them (with one notable exception). The thing is, though, that the cynic in me says that this law isn't there to protect people from harassment.

It's there to quash dissent.

The Internet used to be able to provide at least the illusion of anonymity, and the First Amendment used to work. Now...not so much.


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