Hidden deep within the Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act, which President Bush signed into law last Thursday, is the following chilling paragraph:
Whoever...utilizes 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... without disclosing his identity and with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass any person...who receives the communications...shall be fined under title 18 or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.
In other words, if I annoy you online and I don't tell you what my real name is, I have committed a crime and could go to federal pound-me-in-the-ass prison for two years. The law was originally worded less broadly, and was intended to be used to prevent stalking and other forms of serious online harassment, but apparently someone thought it needed to be modified to include the word "annoy". Let's look at a few possible scenarios in which this law might be abused:
- Leeroy Jenkins aggros an entire room full of dragonlings in Word of Warcraft, wiping his raid group and pissing everyone off. His guild calls the FBI and reports that Leeroy (not his real name) has been annoying them online. Leeroy Jenkins goes to federal pound-me-in-the-ass prison, where he won't even have fried chicken to keep him company.
- Brunslo uses a copy of the exclusive Pants blog engine on his website, but is too lazy to modify the ugly default theme. This annoys me, so I report him to the FBI. Brunslo goes to federal pound-me-in-the-ass prison, where he and Leeroy will have plenty of time to discuss WoW raid tactics.
- wonko blogs about a new law that makes it a federal crime to annoy people. Jim-Bob C. Republican, founder of the East Texas Anti-Terrorism League and George W. Bush Fan Club (Free Bingo every Sunday night!), is annoyed by my criticism of this new law, which is necessary to protect our freedoms from terrorists and their ilk. He calls the FBI. I go to federal pound-me-in-the-ass prison, where I am forced to shiv Leeroy when he aggros a room full of showering inmates.
Okay, so that's stretching it a bit, but you get the point. The law isn't just bullshit, it's completely and utterly absurd bullshit that's begging to be abused. Boy, I sure feel safe and secure here in the land of the free.