Tuesday, January 17, 2006



How many of you noticed the following irony?

Last week was "National Delurking Week" in the blogosphere, meaning that "lurkers" -- people who read blogs without posting comments -- were encouraged to come out and post comments.

Just the week before, on Thursday, January 5, "w" the Boy President signed the "Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act of 2005" into law. This law contains an extremely overbroad "e-nnoyance" provision, making it a crime to annoy someone over the internet without disclosing your true identity:
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.
Clearly, the intent of the law is to prevent cyberstalking, but it's written so broadly and vaguely as to make any annoying utterance over the internet illegal if it's anonymous or pseudonymous. So, for instance, if President Bush were annoyed by my reference to him as "the boy President," ....

Sure, you can say that the law is plainly unconstitutional as applied to most anonymous or pseudonymous comments, and that the Supreme Court has recently reaffirmed the First Amendment right to engage in anonymous or pseudonymous satire, but still -- who wants to have to raise the constitutional defense to a criminal prosecution by some overzealous prosecutor?

Makes you think about that Alito guy, doesn't it?

You should just be really glad that (a) I knew who you were when we were kids, and (b) the law doesn't apply to siblings annoying each other in the back seat of the station wagon during long road trips. Although it would have made for more interesting parental intervention: "Stop that right now, both of you, or I'll have you arrested under the Federal annoyance statutes!"
OK. I'll stop making comments now. But just this last: I do like reading your blog and love the photos you past. Farewell.
You don't have to stop commenting, just make up a pseudonym. I'm not going to sick the feds on you just for being annoying!
I can still be annoying as long as I use my name, right?
Yes, Bryan -- if that's your name.
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