Thursday, January 12, 2006

[geek][politics] More annoyances

Declan McCullagh, C|NET author of the piece on anonymous blogging "with intent to annoy", points out something that has been overlooked in the ensuing debate - the law, as amended, appears to change the definition of Internet communication:
Before the new law took effect Thursday, 47 USC 223 explicitly said it "does not include an interactive computer service." The changes override that for the "to annoy" section. In other words, the section as amended reads like this: "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."
sigh Changing this definition seems like it would create many (unintended? unforseen?) ripples. So, what it really comes down to is that it's probably gonna take a whole bunch of lawyers and a whole bunch of court cases to determine if you can be criminally prosecuted for blogging anonymously or pseudonymously if you do so "with intent to annoy". Either way, it still seems like it depends way too much on the largess of powerful entities... [Updated to correct spelling of McCullagh's surname as well as tweak the spelling of "C|NET" - dunno if it should be CNET or c|net, but hey... so it goes. Also, a hat tip goes out to MSNBC's "Clicked" for the pointer to McCullagh's followup comments. Lastly, McCullagh also has a more in-depth look at the ramifications of the law here. I promise to not annoy anyone with this in the future... unless the situation warrants it, of course ;-)]

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