Thursday, May 7, 2009

House Democrat Linda Sanchez Seeks to Criminalize Harsh Blogging

Congresswoman Linda Sanchez (D-CA), 13 other Democrats and one Republican (Rep. Mark Kirk - IL) are sponsoring HR 1966 - "The Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act".

In relevant part the legislation makes a federal crime (fine + 2 years imprisonment) of :

"transmit[ting] in interstate or foreign commerce any communication, with the intent to coerce, intimidate, harass, or cause substantial emotional distress to a person, using electronic means to support severe, repeated, and hostile behavior."

Jeez, talk about legislating broad crimes around the rare exception...

This is the kind of do-gooder hysterical over-reaction I would expect from the likes of Joe Biden, even down to exploiting some grieving family by naming the legislation after a supposed "victim" of the prospectively-criminalized behavior.

It never ceases to amaze me this mindset of using the federal criminal code for political grandstanding, a Biden-esque practice that has left it clogged with 1000's of unenforced if not unenforceable laws, the larger effect of which is to make it almost impossible to exist in America without violating one or another federal law, at any given time.

Eugene Volokh has some salient hypothethicals / observations , not the least of which is the patent unconstitutionality of this aberrant proposal :

1. I try to coerce a politician into voting a particular way, by repeatedly blogging (using a hostile tone) about what a hypocrite / campaign promise breaker / fool / etc. he would be if he voted the other way. I am transmitting in interstate commerce a communication with the intent to coerce using electronic means (a blog) "to support severe, repeated, and hostile behavior" -- unless, of course, my statements aren't seen as "severe," a term that is entirely undefined and unclear. Result: I am a felon, unless somehow my "behavior" isn't "severe."

2. A newspaper reporter or editorialist tries to do the same, in columns that are posted on the newspaper's Web site. Result: Felony, unless somehow my "behavior" isn't severe.

3. The politician votes the wrong way. I think that's an evil, tyrannical vote, so I repeatedly and harshly condemn the politician on my blog, hoping that he'll get very upset (and rightly so, since I think he deserves to feel ashamed of himself, and loathed by others). I am transmitting a communication with the the intent to cause substantial emotional distress, using electronic means (a blog) "to support severe, repeated, and hostile behavior." (I might also be said to be intending to "harass" -- who knows, given how vague the term is? -- but the result is the same even if we set that aside.) Result: I am a felon, subject to the usual utter uncertainty about what "severe" means.

4. A company delivers me shoddy goods, and refuses to refund my money. I e-mail it several times, threatening to sue if they don't give me a refund, and I use "hostile" language. I am transmitting a communication with the intent to coerce, using electronic means "to support severe, repeated, and hostile behavior." Result: I am a felon, if my behavior is "severe."

5. Several people use blogs or Web-based newspaper articles to organize a boycott of a company, hoping to get it to change some policy they disapprove of. They are transmitting communications with the intent to coerce, using electronic means "to support severe, repeated, and hostile behavior." Result: Those people are a felon. (Isn't threatening a company with possible massive losses "severe"? But again, who knows?)

6. John cheats on Mary. Mary wants John to feel like the scumbag that he is, so she sends him two hostile messages telling him how much he's hurt her, how much she now hates him, and how bad he should feel. She doesn't threaten him with violence (there are separate laws barring that, and this law would apply even in the absence of a threat). She is transmitting communications with the intent to cause substantial emotional distress, using electronic means "to support severe, repeated, and hostile behavior." Result: Mary is a felon, again if her behavior is "severe."

The examples could be multiplied pretty much indefinitely. The law, if enacted, would clearly be facially overbroad (and probably unconstitutionally vague), and would thus be struck down on its face under the First Amendment. But beyond that, surely even the law's supporters don't really want to cover all this speech.

What are Rep. Linda Sanchez and the others thinking here? Are they just taking the view that "criminalize it all, let the prosecutors sort it out"? Even if that's so, won't their work amount to nothing, if the law is struck down as facially overbroad -- as I'm pretty certain it would be? Or are they just trying to score political points here with their constituents, with little regard to whether the law will actually do any good?

I try to focus my posts mostly on what people do, not on their motives, but here the drafting is so shoddy that I just wonder why this happened.

Wired Magazine also takes note of the reality that this legislation could mean : Prison Awaiting Hostile Bloggers.

People like New Castle County Council President Paul Clark (D) might be happy
to see such a legislative travesty....the rest of us should be fighting it.

1 comment:

johndaniels said...

EXPOSED! Lets take a closer look at H.R. 1966, the anti free speech, anti 1st Amendment bill proposed by Linda Sanchez (D-CA)

5/6/2009: First lets look at the sponsors of this bill; and see just who got them elected! Click the names to see what "agenda's" they answer to; makes for interesting reading!

Political donors to Linda Sanchez D-CA: Top 100 donors:

Busted! Linda Sanchez took $8,000 from Fox News (News Corp), a 'right wing, conservative outlet! Y'know, a liberal democrat taking money from the 'O'Reilly Factor' and 'Hannity' network! Interestingly, she also took $7,500 from DirecTV which, oddly enough, is 35% owned by News Corp. Sneaky way to make political contributions, eh? If the 2 contributions are combined, they equal her #1 source of political contributors! Explains why they used two separate entities to buy her to propose this bill. There is clearly an anti-competition angle here that STINKS. This clouds any 'concern for internet safety' spin the sponsors may put on the bill!

Political corruption exposed; good to know who's willing to sell out the 1st Amendment for 15 grand. The sad part is, these politicians may not even be aware what they are doing is treasonous against the Constitution! The culture of Washington D.C. is so corrupted, its like second nature to them. Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus Christ for 30 pieces of silver; tell me... what's the difference?

Cosponsors [as of 2009-04-18] of H.R. 1966, and their top 100 political contributors ( for links)

Rep. Mark Kirk [R-IL]
Rep. Timothy Bishop [D-NY]
Rep. Raul Grijalva [D-AZ]
Rep. Bruce Braley [D-IA]
Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard [D-CA]
Rep. Joe Courtney [D-CT]
Rep. John Yarmuth [D-KY]
Rep. Phil Hare [D-IL]
Rep. Marcy Kaptur [D-OH]
Rep. William Clay [D-MO]
Rep. Danny Davis [D-IL]
Rep. John Sarbanes [D-MD]
Rep. Brian Higgins [D-NY]
Rep. Lois Capps [D-CA]

When you turn on the kitchen light, the cockroaches scatter. 'Neo Conservatives' masked as 'Labor Union Democrats'; Oh my! This deceptive ploy only makes transparent the corruption that is rampant in our political system. We've seen it before: A "representative of the people" like Linda Sanchez (D-CA) used as a cover for a fear mongering, corporate expansionist, civil rights assault that pushes a neo-conservative agenda.

Linda Sanchez (D-CA) and others have introduced H.R. 1966, an anti free speech bill that threatens the smaller voices, and benefits the larger mainstream media. Alternative media exists without an mandated, dictated agenda. Why hurt the "little guy?" (more info on the bill here)?

Major political contributors to Linda Sanchez include big business mainstream media interests; such as News Corp, Directv, and the National Cable and Telecommunications Association. Newscorp is a major international media company that owns television networks such as Fox news, a conservative news outlet (hypocrite?)! They also operate major newspaper outlets, and have a great interest in seeing the smaller blogs die. These small blogs and social media outlets are grasping market share as the demand for real, independent non agenda news grows. The small blogs and media outlets are also a means for unsponsored independents (i.e. the "little guy") to get internet traffic. She is suppressing not only free speech with this bill, but free enterprise.

Corporate monopolism through a labor democrat is hypocrisy at its WORST; this must be opposed because it is deception of the voting constituency. Call your representative now to vote DOWN this bill.

Just more serving the interests of monopolizing corporations that seek to preserve their domination over the free internet, and snuff out the smaller voices. Disappointing, in that we had believed Linda Sanchez (D-CA) was an ally of the people, with her holding steadfast and not voting for the bailout. That is most likely the reason she is named as the author of this ridiculous bill. Think about it. How can we even trust any of these people anymore, when all they do is attempt to deceive us?

We are not fooled. I would prefer that no further bills be submitted by ANYONE in congress, so this cauldron of sellouts can't do any more damage to our liberties!

Why stifle working class Americans who run small blogs with this attack on the first Amendment? Speculation would suggest the bill is being pushed behind closed doors by News Corp and the National Cable and Telecommunications Association. How does this bill benefit the working class people, who have to fight for their rights under the constitution; rights being attacked daily by major corporations? The answer is clear, the betrayal is evident. We see FIRST HAND that once again, elected representatives are prioritizing big money political contributions over the voting majority.

Our rights under the Constitution are all we have, folks. It's the only defense the people have against big business and mainstream media dictatorships. This is a bad bill all around, that will weaken the smaller voices, and benefit mainstream media. Over-generalizations that can result from bills like this mean rights suppressions for those who don't have the resources to defend themselves. Who exactly is going to define the abstract boundaries of this bill? How will enforcement be carried out against free speech?

Protect our right to free speech, and fight government intervention into your rights! Read between the lines. We simply cannot trust the political process when politicians serve the interests of major political contributors.