The Arizona state legislature has passed HB 2549, a law that makes it a crime to get on someone else’s nerves. The law reads:
“It is unlawful for any person, with intent to terrify, intimidate, threaten, harass, annoy or offend, to use any electronic or digital device and use any obscene, lewd or profane language or suggest any lewd or lascivious act, or threaten to inflict physical harm to the person or property of any person.”
Don’t live in Arizona? You could still be found guilty of this crime, because the law states:
“Any offense committed by use of a telephone an electronic or digital device as set forth in this section is deemed to have been committed at either the place where the communications originated or at the place where the communications were received.”
If you call someone in Arizona on the telephone, or send an email to someone in Arizona that annoys or offends that person, a warrant can be put out for your arrest, and the next time you cross the Arizona state line, you can be tossed into court and have a conviction placed on your permanent record.
Here at Irregular Times, we have conducted many acts of electronic communication with the intent to offend and annoy the Arizona bigots who passed a racist law that makes it a crime for anyone who looks like an immigrant to not carry identification papers. We wrote articles that were transmitted electronically. Under the new Arizona law, HB 2549, we could be arrested in Arizona for having written those articles.
This very article will offend and annoy the supporters of HB 2549. It was created on an electronic device, and is being transmitted using a huge number of electronic devices. Under HB 2549, creating this article is a criminal act.
The justification for HB 2549 is that it will stop “cyber bullying”, a form of bullying that is a particular problem across America because parents aren’t familiar with the technology their children use, and therefore worry that it is creating new problems. If the Arizona state legislature is really concerned about bullying, though, it shouldn’t have passed HB 2549.
The overreaching, unconstitutional harshness of HB 2549 annoys me. It offends me, because it is an attempt to intimidate and threaten people from engaging in challenging, aggressive communications. Challenging, aggressive communications are what the First Amendment freedom of the press was intended to protect. The First Amendment also protects freedom of speech. There is no exemption for the criminalization of annoying or offensive speech in the Constitution.
The very passage of HB 2549 a criminal act. After all, HB 2549 was published using electronic equipment and published online. HB 2549 is, therefore, a form of cyber bullying. So, I hereby call for the arrest and prosecution of the authors of HB 2549.