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Alabama Proposes Anti-Meanie Law

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A new rewrite of Alabama's Digital Crime Act would criminalize cyberbullying:

Section 6. (a) A person commits the crime of electronic harassment if, with intent to harass, annoy, or alarm any person, he or she transmits, posts, displays, or disseminates, by or through an electronic communication device, radio, computer, Internet, or other similar means, to any person, a communication, image, or information, which is based on the actual or perceived traits or characteristics of that person, which creates any of the following conditions:

(1) Places that person in reasonable fear or harm to his or her person or property.

(2) Has a substantial and detrimental effect on that person's physical or mental health.

(3) Has the effect of substantially interfering with that person's academic performance, employment, or other community activities or responsibilities.

(4) Has the effect of substantially interfering with that person's ability to participate in or benefit from any academic, professional, or community-based services, activities, or privileges.

(5) Has the effect of causing substantial embarrassment or humiliation within an academic or professional community.

(b) Any person violating this section, upon conviction, shall be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor.

The intent part of the bill at least protects comments that have unintended consequences, but the intent to merely annoy opens a lot of room for prosecution. Consider this now famous comment by Rush Limbaugh about Sandra Fluke:

What does it say about the college co-ed Susan Fluke who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex -- what does that make her? It makes her a slut, right?

Probably no intent to harass her, though you'd have an easier time arguing the annoyance issue. And if not that, you could argue that he intended to annoy liberals at large - the law is not limited to harassment and annoyance of the subject of the comment.

You certainly could show that calling her a slut and a prostitute on the radio had the effect of interfering with her community activities (though perhaps he caused more people to rally to her, making it a positive interference), and calling someone a slut on a national forum likely also caused some embarrassment or humiliation within her law school and the legal community.

While Limbaugh was certainly being an asshole, and apparently thinks you only have to take the pill when switching between sexual partners, and he is a blight on political discourse, his comment should not be a crime. If his comment is a crime, then it'd also be a crime to call William Robinson a stupid dick, because we most definitely meant to annoy him, interfere with his community activities, and cause substantial embarrassment and humiliation within academic and professional communities.

[House Bill]

[Senate Bill]

[Gave wave The Fire]


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