Trolling in Arizona (and beyond): HB 2549

By Ernest Falkner III

Zillion Dollar Thinking


The subject of Internet trolling hit the radar in the last couple of weeks. I searched just enough to find what I believed to be the issue from just the headlines — specifically, that Arizona had passed a bill, HB 2549, in their legislature and the governor was poised to sign it into law. Many may believe it to be a scary law.

Had reports that the governor signed the measure been accurate, the rules (initially applied only in Arizona) could have altered our current participation and relationship to the Internet.

Part of the law read:
    It is unlawful for any person, with intent to terrify, intimidate, threaten, harass, annoy or offend, to use any electronic or digital device and use any obscene, lewd or profane language or suggest any lewd or lascivious act, or threaten to inflict physical harm to the person or property of any person.

    This means any comment, forum post, blog post or other public web spaces where discussions or shared thoughts take place could be held accountable if deemed in violation of the law.”
If found guilty, a violator could be subject to a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by potential jail time and $1,000s in fines.

Groups like Media Coalition are fighting the law. Media coalition stated in a letter to Arizona Governor Jan Brewer:
    The communication does not need to be repetitive or even unwanted. There is no requirement that the recipient or subject of the speech actually feel offended, annoyed or scared. Nor does the legislation make clear that the communication must be intended to offend or annoy the reader, the subject or even any specific person.
In other words, enough to scare you and me.

Drilling down today (the research step), it seems that after a tsunami of backlash directed at the Arizona lawmakers, they are reconsidering their position. But, it is not clear what direction they are taking.

Question: What were/are they thinking (decisioning)?

This one was/is close, but it really points out the vigilance that is now required by all of us — especially those who maintain active sites, blogs and comments in the social media (hello, ProducersWEB).

Search, research and share.