Monday, January 09, 2006

Phone Call Not The Same as an Email or a Comment

Garance says cyberstalking bad and that therefore we shouldn't be concerned with the criminalization of online annoying people. If enforced as written I would be quite concerned about the law. I get lots of people sending me "annoying" emails anonymously and certainly there are people who troll the comments section (either garden variety trolls or ones who are literally just trying to disrupt) here with the intent "to annoy" and I don't think their behavior usually comes anywhere close to something I'd want to see criminalized.

The thing is that an anonymous annoying phone call is something quite different from an email or blog comment or, hell, even a blog post. An anonymous annoying phone call is almost by definition right up to the edge of harrassment, especially if it's repeated at all. I can easily see some local pol getting pissed off that a local blogger is on their case anonymously and then trying to use this statute to shut him/her down.

I imagine that the law will either be enforced sensibly or it will be shot down one way or another, but that won't necessarily prevent some people from having a costly and embarrassing legal battle.

I don't agree that the statutory language follows boilerplate state cyberstalking laws - a couple listed are very similar but many others are quite different.

In any case I don't really expect this to be a big deal, but even little deals can have chilling effects.