January 11, 2006

Much Ado About Nothing!

Update: it seems that one of the comments I left in favor of HR 3402 was linked to by a number of blogs and they generated quite a bit of email in my inbox. I originally had thought it was the readers of Say Uncle as that was where I had left a comment, however I later learned that that comment had been picked up and quoted elsewhere. I was unaware of this until I went through my deleted emails and found a few trackbacks. HR 3402 is a piece of legislation that was just approved by both Houses and signed by the President and extends an original law to include online or cyber stalking. Some bloggers believe it is an infringement on their rights, I feel if they read the legislation and case studies for this amendment they would see things differently.

I was going to post this info at other sights including says uncle, but I was afraid they might try to make me the first test case of their pseudo "annoyance" legislation. I'm posting it here because as a legislative analyst and blogger, I want to be on the record that the stuff being spouted off by some bloggers is outright and patently false. Ready for the quick truths!
- NO - you cannot have your blog taken down or be thrown in jail for 2 years for posting an annoying comment on a blog.
- NO - you cannot be thrown in jail for using the interet to make unwanted calls on an unsuspecting individual... AND
- NO - you cannot be jailed for sending an annoying email.
- Yes - there were committee hearings over the past 2 years to discuss the updated changes from the original enacted (1994) version of the legislation (hence over 6 drafts in the last 2 years). These drafts did not edit themselves.
- Finally, this is a Cyber Stalking Law, that expands the teeth of spousal/partner stalking laws, not a law for protecting individuals from annoyances.

You know what the scariest thing of this whole kerfuffle has been? 2 highly visited bloggers used "News Organizations" as their ONLY source of information and took the news agency's slant as the Gospel Truth. Not only were the news organizaitons using the incorrect version of the legislation (they used a 2yr old draft), they were quoting wording that is NOT in the final/enacted version.

So what do you think happened when this itty bitty blogger tried to correct the record and point out the erroneous information? Well, lets just say I got some less than civil guests that wound up in my inbox, and I've spent close to an hour getting rid of them. Thank God for delete buttons. Unfortunately, contrary to their misguided belief, there's not a darned thing I can do about that. Nope, according to the legislation their has to be at minimum, "substantial harassment", at the maximum there has to be a level of consistent threat "to kill, injure, harass, or place under surveillance with intent to kill, injure, harass, or intimidate, or cause substantial emotional distress to a person in another State".

So in the interest of public service... I'd like to point out simply 1 thing: the wording these guys keep quoting - ANNOY, ETC. is NOT (I repeat) NOT IN THE FINAL RESOLUTION. There, I feel better. If you wish to use/quote those words, proceed at your own ignorance.

How do I know they are not in the final version? Very simple, unlike these bloggers, I READ THE WHOLE DARNED THING! All 242 pages! Why? 'cause that's just the kinda gal I am. I don't let anyone else do my thinking for me. I don't read snippets of a 2yr old draft that was posted by a "news organization" and then picked up by a nice but unsuspecting blogger, who gets frustrated with readers when they point out inaccurate and erroneous facts in their posts. Nope, "I" don't do that... you see "I" read the source material because I want to find out the truth for myself, and not from some re-interpreted version from a news organization, especially knowing how unrealiable "news agencies" are.

For the record: if you do research on HR 3402 at the Library of Congress you'll find more than 6 draft versions before scrolling down to find the version that was voted on or enrolled. HR 3402 ENR is the Enrolled version. Enrolled means the version that was approved by the House and is entered/enrolled in the Congressional record. If the bill has anything other than ENR after it, it is NOT the final version, but merely one of a myriad of versions introduced by any number of committees or branches of the government.

Anyone can find it for themselves... by visiting the above link, then inputting HR3402.ENR and activating the search. You will be brought to the summary and linked sections of the bill immediately after that. To read the complete 242 page document, hit the printer friendly version link at the top right and read to your hearts content.

For all who wish to keep spouting off inaccuracies and quoting non-existing wording, go right ahead... just don't do it here as this is an IGNORANCE Free Zone.

Posted by Michele at January 11, 2006 01:10 AM | TrackBack

Woot! Get some, Michele!!!

Posted by: Ted at January 11, 2006 06:09 AM

Give'em Hell Michele!

Posted by: Laughing Wolf at January 11, 2006 08:53 AM

Wow... Good job. I thought I was the only person in the world that read laws, legal briefs and legislation just to see what they are actually saying.

You are so hot right now. ;)

Posted by: Contagion at January 11, 2006 09:00 AM

I'll need to update my update now. :)

Posted by: _Jon at January 11, 2006 09:00 AM

First, my website does not display your email address. And I, giving a cursory glance, can't find your email on this site. My commenters, though direct, are usually civil. And they're more likely to have the debate in the comments section. So, I highly doubt that any of my readers sent you said emails.

You do raise some good points but seem to miss that this law is not aimed at cyberstalking. It's aim is internet telephone.

BTW, thanks for the heads up on the 2 year old version of the law. Will do an update tomorrow.


Posted by: SayUncle at January 11, 2006 06:25 PM

Actually annoy is in there, by incorporation. See e.g. http://www.nyu.edu/classes/siva/archives/002638.html
The new Act amends a prexisting law, and that law says "annoy."

Also have to ask "SayUncle" why he she/thinks the Act is called "PREVENTING CYBERSTALKING"?

In any event, I agree that there has been a lot of unnecessary sound and fury over this.

Posted by: Ann Bartow at January 11, 2006 07:21 PM

Have to agree with Ann. You can read the Code itself in the link Declan had in his article, here: http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode47/usc_sec_47_00000223----000-.html. It, indeed, contains the word "annoy", although it also contextualizes it in a way that Declan completely elides. That is his fault, not misreading HR 3402.

Posted by: saurabh at January 11, 2006 07:27 PM

And I would ask you why it states it covers telecommunications via the internet. I can also see where it may apply to emails but boards and blogs are not covered.

Posted by: SayUncle at January 11, 2006 09:08 PM

Because Section 113 is aimed at preventing cybestalking via VOIP, to me that is the simple part, and seemds to be what at least some of the Congresspeople who voted for the Act thought they were accomplishing. E-mail is arguably a closer question than blogs.

Posted by: Ann Bartow at January 12, 2006 08:19 AM

Thanks for the links to the law. Not one that reads them that often. But now I don't have to go to the local politician to get it.

Posted by: vw bug at January 12, 2006 08:21 AM

It also has "intent to harass" in there. So yes, by definition of the law, if you feel you are harrassed, this law can come unto play. But one would hope there'd be reasonable application of the law...

Thanks for the details!

Posted by: Ogre at January 12, 2006 09:04 AM

Not to make light of the situation, but would you mind defining "kerfuffle"? I'm not familiar with that word, although it appears you are in NYC, and I am in TX, so it may just be geographic. Thank you!

Posted by: Smoke Eater at January 12, 2006 05:18 PM


n : a disorderly outburst or tumult; "they were amazed by the furious disturbance they had caused" [synonyms: disturbance, disruption, commotion, stir, flutter, hurly burly, big to-do, hoo-ha, hoo-hah, brouhaha, hubbub, uproar]

Posted by: michele at January 13, 2006 02:30 PM