The state legislature of Arizona has passed a bill that vastly broadens telephone harassment laws and applies them to the Internet and other means of electronic communication.
The law, which is being pushed under the guise of an anti-bullying campaign, would mean that anything communicated or published online that was deemed to be “offensive” by the state, including editorials, illustrations, and even satire could be criminally punished.
“The bill is sweepingly broad, and would make it a crime to communicate via electronic means speech that is intended to ‘annoy,’ ‘offend,’ ‘harass’ or ‘terrify,’ as well as certain sexual speech. Because the bill is not limited to one-to-one communications, H.B. 2549 would apply to the Internet as a whole, thus criminalizing all manner of writing, cartoons, and other protected material the state finds offensive or annoying.”
First Amendment activist group Media Coalition has written to Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, urging her not to sign the legislation into law.
The letter notes that the terms used in the bill are not defined in the statute or by reference, and thereby the law could be broadly applied to almost any statement.