Thursday, April 5, 2012

Arizona Bill Has Free Speech Advocates on Edge

PHOENIX, AZ - NOVEMBER 2:  Arizona Governor Ja...Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)House Bill 2549, passed by the Arizona legislature and wending its way toward Gov. Jan Brewer's desk, seems certain to invite a First Amendment challenge from online advocates of free expression.

H.B. 2549, according to a report by ABC News, makes it a misdemeanor offense subject to a maximum six months' jail time for an individual who employs digital or electronic means to "terrify, intimidate, threaten, harass, annoy or offend" another. Although more than two-thirds of the states have enacted cyberbullying statutes, the proposed H.B. 2549 apparently could have a chilling effect on speech because, for example, its vague wording doesn't define what might satisfy the "annoy" or "offend" burden of proof.

Social media users and blog commenters will have to be on their guard if the measure passes. For the Arizona legislature, which previously authored a draconian immigration law that seemingly makes "driving while looking Latino" a criminal offense, and was the last state legislature to acknowledge Martin Luther King's birthday as a holiday, it's just another day at the office.
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