Regulation of online speech threatens First Amendment

Arizona may join a number of other states including Texas, New York and California in restricting online postings. The Arizona law introduced by Republican Representative Michelle Ugenti makes it a felony to create an online profile in someone else’s name intended to “harm, defraud, intimidate or threaten.” (ABC News, January 3, 2013, by Alex Alvarez)

Critics are worried over the chilling effect of the proposed law on free speech.  Under the bill’s provisions, mocking someone or concocting a fake online profile for satirical ends could be interpreted as criminal conduct. (RT, February 7, 2013)

While cyberbullying can cause serious harm, the Arizona law seems overbroad, writes Marie-Andree Weiss for the Citizen Media Law Project, February 5, 2013. She argues that the terms “harm” and “intimidate” are subject to constitutional restrictions,  “As the Supreme Court stated in Gooding v. Wilson, ‘persons whose expression is constitutionally protected may well refrain from exercising their rights for fear of criminal sanctions provided by a statute susceptible of application to protected expression.'” -db


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1 thought on “Regulation of online speech threatens First Amendment

  1. While I have not read the bill, legislation prohibiting anyone from creating and using a profile that impersonates another for the purpose of harming them seems to me a very positive step in the right direction, not destructive censorship. I have been a victim of stalking, impersonation, identity theft, harassment, and numerous other cyber crimes since 2007. I know the identity of the perpetrator, who resides in California. She targets others too and victimizes them but is clever with computers and also pays others to conduct the cyber crime.

    I hope this legislation passes, and if it is actually enforced hopefully this serial stalker will finally be caught and pay for her crimes, as well as countless others who have harmed and endangered innocent people.

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