In a move that could only come from a California lawmaker, Rep. Linda Sanchez of Los Angeles has introduced a bill that would prohibit “cyberbullying.” Although the measure was prompted by the vicious Myspace harassment that led to the tragic suicide of teenager Megan Meier, it would make all sorts of communication criminal if the messages were found to cause “emotional distress” to their recipients.
One can imagine the Bradbury-esque nightmare created if the government could begin fining and imprisoning people for hostile emails.
“Sanchez's bill goes way beyond cyberbullying and comes close to make
it a federal offense to log onto the internet or use the telephone. The
methods of communication where hostile speech is banned include e-mail,
instant messaging, blogs, websites, telephones and text messages.”
Political bloggers from Mayor Sam to the Latino Politics Blog are deeply worried that Sanchez's proposed law, as written, could end up censoring criticism of public officials. Even if it's amended to target only genuinely harmful communication, who's to determine what qualifies as genuinely harmful communication?
What is Sanchez thinking? It's hard to say, but if she's trying to
confirm that Democrats will turn virtually any concern into a piece of
impossible-to-legally-enforce legislation, she's doing a great job.