After criticism, HB 2549 is abruptly pulled
Published: Friday, April 13, 2012
Updated: Friday, April 13, 2012 16:04
In an attempt to curb cyber-bullying, Arizona House Bill 2549 was unanimously passed on March 28, receiving 30 ‘ayes’ in the House.
However, following a spike in Internet criticism, bill sponsor Ted Vogt stopped the Bill before it was signed by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer.
Co-sponsor of the bill, Vic Williams, commented in a New Times blog saying, “I can see the conspiracy (theorists) have their tin-foil hats on tonight. HB 2549 is being chased down by the ‘black-helicopter’ crowd. Their claims of Internet restriction are unfounded and way off base.”
Under HB 2549, the scope of the old Arizona telephone harassment bill, 13-2916, was expanded to include “any misuse of electronic or digital devices intended to terrify, intimidate, threaten, harass, annoy, or offend in the course of stalking.”
In other words, comments made on the Internet which violated the terms of the bill could result in a class one misdemeanor, all the way up to class one felony, for repeat offenders with a record.
Despite accusations of “fascism and tyranny” the proposers maintained that the end-goal of the bill was pursued, “in good faith,” according to Williams.
However, Donald Gawronski, political science professor here at MCC says, “the current wording of laws is subjective, and the people writing these bills paint with the artists brush.
“The offense is in the mind of the beholder and some people are hypersensitive,” said Gawronski.
“The vast majority of all comments on the internet are of no value whatsoever, either racist, ignorant, insulting, or spelled totally incorrectly.”
As far as the restriction of the first amendment is concerned, Gawronski said, “It’s a two way street, none of our so called ‘rights’ are absolute.
“Sure, you have a right to say what you want and I can say whatever I want about you, but you also have the right to sue me for it.”
Brandon Baldwin, vice president of MCC’s environmental action club, offered an alternative to the proposed bill: “funding and attention should be given to counseling departments to help people that are suffering (from cyberbullying) as opposed to being used to restrict the freedom of speech.”
The bill is currently stalled and is in the process of being revised.