April 3, 2012
A bill approved by the Arizona House last week will make “telecommunications harassment” – speech others find offensive or threatening – a Class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to 25 years in prison.
Arizona House Bill 2549 passed both legislative houses and is now awaiting signature from Arizona governor Jan Brewer.
The legislation will make it “unlawful for any person, with intent to terrify, intimidate, threaten, harass, annoy or offend, to use a telephone 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.” (Emphasis added.)
If enacted, the law will fundamentally change the way the internet is used in Arizona and make what is now considered normal – if annoying – behavior illegal. Trolling and nasty comments on blogs will become punishable offenses.
It will also undoubtedly close down political commentary – much of it offensive and even profane – in Arizona. It will be interesting to see who the government of Arizona selects to persecute after this unconstitutional legislation becomes law.
According to the founders, political speech is the most highly guarded form of speech. Its free exercise is essential for a functioning republic.
Arizona House Bill 2549 is another example of a nanny state intruding on the private affairs of citizens under the guise of protecting them. It also represents a Trojan Horse that may be used to rob the people of Arizona of the ability to challenge the tyranny of the state.