Annoying someone via the Internet is now a federal crime.
It's no joke. Last Thursday, President Bush signed into law a prohibition on posting annoying Web messages or sending annoying e-mail messages without disclosing your true identity.
In other words, it's OK to flame someone on a mailing list or in a blog as long as you do it under your real name. Thank Congress for small favors, I guess.
This ridiculous prohibition, which would likely imperil much of Usenet, is buried in the so-called Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act. Criminal penalties include stiff fines and two years in prison.
"The use of the word 'annoy' is particularly problematic," says Marv Johnson, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union. "What's annoying to one person may not be annoying to someone else."
Hey look: I agree with the ACLU on something! She's right. The word "annoy" is vague, and in this context, probably facially unconstitutional.
But if not, this law spells the end of KAR. If there is one thing we do well, it's annoying people anonymously (I'd provide a link to prove it, but she doesn't deserve any more than the meager attention she already gets).
(And no, I'm not talking about her. )
(Although, we do annoy her too.)
(If you know what I mean.)
(End of cryptic parenteticals.)
Buried deep in the new law is Sec. 113, an innocuously titled bit called "Preventing Cyberstalking." It rewrites existing telephone harassment law to prohibit anyone from using the Internet "without disclosing his identity and with intent to annoy."
To grease the rails for this idea, Sen. Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican, and the section's other sponsors slipped it into an unrelated, must-pass bill to fund the Department of Justice. The plan: to make it politically infeasible for politicians to oppose the measure.
The tactic worked. The bill cleared the House of Representatives by voice vote, and the Senate unanimously approved it Dec. 16.
Oh goodie! Another argument against Arlen
Well, it's been a good run. I guess we'll have to go back to our old methods of annoying people: placing a flaming bag of dog poop on someone's front porch. Anybody know Blois' address?