Sunday, January 15, 2006

anonymous internet annoying is illegal

I left one out. This article notes a recent Congressional act that makes it illegal to intentionally post an annoying message to the Internet without using your real name. H.R. 3402 (now Pub. Law. 109-162, which you can find here ) modified 27 U.S.C. § 223.

The old language of 223(h)(1), which governs definitions, reads
(1) The use of the term “telecommunications device” in this section—
(A) shall not impose new obligations on broadcasting station licensees and cable operators covered by obscenity and indecency provisions elsewhere in this chapter; and
(B) does not include an interactive computer service.
The new law makes these changes to the section:

(a) IN GENERAL.--Paragraph (1) of section 223(h) of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 223(h)(1)) is amended--
(1) in subparagraph (A), by striking "and" at the end;
(2) in subparagraph (B), by striking the period at the end and inserting "; and"; and
(3) by adding at the end the following new subparagraph:
"(C) in the case of subparagraph (C) of subsection (a)(1), includes 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 (as such term is defined in section 1104 of the Internet Tax Freedom Act (47 U.S.C. 151 note)).".
(b) RULE OF CONSTRUCTION.--This section and the amendment made by this section may not be construed to affect the meaning given the term "telecommunications device" in section 223(h)(1) of the Communications Act of 1934, as in effect before the date of the enactment of this section.
Section 223(a)(1)(C) says it's illegal if someone
(C) makes a telephone call or utilizes a telecommunications device, whether or not conversation or communication ensues, without disclosing his identity and with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass any person at the called number or who receives the communications;
One comment writer to Boing-Boing said that this change is really just surplus language because the courts have already given the Communication Decency Act this interpretation in ACLU v. Reno, 929 F. Supp. 824, 829 n.5 (E.D. Pa. 1996), aff'd, 521 U.S. 824 (1997). I haven't yet read the opinion to see whether or not I agree.

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