Ariz. lawmakers get trolled for anti-trolling bill

Josh Peterson Tech Editor
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Arizona state lawmakers think the Internet is mean.

But the Arizona legislature is having second thoughts about a recent bill passed at the end of March, which would outlaw harassment via any electronic device — including posting inflammatory remarks in website comment sections and message boards, i.e., trolling.

Following a rally of Internet opposition in early April, state lawmakers rescinded the bill for reconsideration after it had originally received near unanimous bipartisan support.

The bill — Arizona House Bill 2549 — was meant to update a law that addressed harassment via telephones. The problem, opponents of the bill saw, was that the bill as passed was too broad and infringed upon the freedom of speech protections in the First Amendment by outlawing inflammatory remarks made by a person on any electronic device.

“I thought the bill as unconstitutional and ill-advised,” Apache Junction Republican Rep. John Filmore told TheDC in an email, who was the lone vote against the bill in the state House.

“In today’s political correct world, where do we draw a line in the sand on too much cry babying?” said Filmore.

“It is not (as of yet) illegal or unconstitutional to be a jerk, and no matter how much we try, we will never end it,” said Filmore. “Some people just need to say shut up, hang up or disconnect if they are being offended.”

Media Coalition — a free speech advocacy group whose members include the entertainment Software Association, the Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry Association of America — raised awareness both in the legislature and online about the potential threat to free speech the bill posed.

Media Coalition’s executive director David Horowitz told The Daily Caller that the bill would affect more than just the Internet. Talk radio could also be targeted, and at least one radio talk show host invited a state lawmaker onto his program to talk about the legislator’s concerns about the bill, he said.

“I think in this case, in a way, it was people on the internet that were concerned, but it was also guys on talk radio shows,” Horowitz explained.

The bill, should it again pass the legislature, would have to be signed by Arizona Republican Gov. Jan Brewer to become state law. Brewer’s position on the legislation, however, is unclear.

“Since bills typically undergo multiple changes during the legislative process, the Governor typically doesn’t announce a public position on bills until they reach her desk,” Brewer’s spokesman Matthew Benson said.

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Josh Peterson