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Texas Teen Arrested Under New Online Harassment Law

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the play-nice-now dept.

Social Networks 494

SpaceGhost sends in a story from San Antonio, TX: "Police have arrested a 16-year-old girl on charges of harassment under a new Texas law that took effect September 1, 2009. H.B. 2003 says a person commits a third degree felony if the person posts one or more messages on a social networking site with the intent to harm, defraud, intimidate or threaten another person. Police say the harassment went on for a few months and involved a dispute over a boy. ... Some people expect legal challenges to the constitutionality of the new Internet law.' The law is evidently a response to the Lori Drew case.

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494 comments

Your Honor! (5, Funny)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768307)

"I respectfully submit that the defendant is a Meanie-Head in the first degree!"

"My client wishes the court to know that the witness, in fact, 'started it'."

Re:Your Honor! (4, Funny)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768355)

Court room typist: How do you spell "DooDoo Head"?

Re:Your Honor! (5, Insightful)

Moryath (553296) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768439)

Was that a transcript from the case or a transcript from the latest session of Congress?

Seriously though... any time speech is regulated, there's a problem. Yes, the Supreme Court has ruled that the right to Free Speech is not absolute, but the prosecution of a girl for calling another girl names over a dispute over a boy? A matter for parents and possibly high school guidance counselors, or on the rare outside case for a psychiatrist, but not for the courts.

a girl calling another girl names? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29768751)

Exactly. Good comment.

"new Texas law"

The south of the U.S. has a higher proportion of ignorant people than other areas. But in Texas the ignorant people are also angry, like George W. Bush.

Re:Your Honor! (4, Interesting)

macbeth66 (204889) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768759)

Sure it is. That way, if it can't be resolved through the means you suggested, it goes to court. Not everything goes to court, sometimes people talk to each and resolve their differences. But, when you can't, you let the court decide. But, you have to give the courts some teeth.

These are the same kinds of laws that give people recourse for harassment and stalking. Something that the courts could nothing about until just recently. At least, in the USA.

Re:Your Honor! (5, Funny)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768591)

"Enough! By the power vested in me by the State of My Mom's Dining Table, I sentence you to both... Kiss each other for 5 seconds!"

Re:Your Honor! (5, Insightful)

Em Emalb (452530) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768789)

I miss the days when disputes were settled on the playground after school. *sigh*

Seemed a much simpler time, didn't it?

Re:Your Honor! (1)

LordAndrewSama (1216602) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768979)

I think the good 'ol pistol duels, or the sword fights before them are more appropriate. but they just prove who's left, not who's right... more fun and less expensive though.

heh, just thought: would make the court cases from the RIAA drones much more fair and definitely satisfying.

About time (0)

zoomshorts (137587) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768311)

Such stuff needs to be a felony.

Re:About time (4, Funny)

Thelasko (1196535) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768401)

Such stuff needs to be a felony.

In which case, the state of Texas is going to be busy with all of the anonymous vs. anonymous [4chan.org] cases.

Re:About time (1)

jimbolauski (882977) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768649)

I just wonder when the warrant will be issued for AC.

Re:About time (0, Offtopic)

mathx314 (1365325) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768693)

4chan was so much better before that Anonymous guy showed up.

Re:About time (3, Informative)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768963)

So is Missouri [news-leader.com] . The Texas case isn't the first by any means; the Lori Drew case was in Missouri, and they passed such a law posthaste. I submitted a story about the first arrest for online stalking under the new Missouri Lori Drew law several months ago, I guess there were different people looking at the firehose then.

Texas ain't the first.

Missouri legislators passed a cyberbullying law after the 2006 suicide of 13-year-old Megan Meier of St. Charles County. Megan killed herself after an Internet hoax that drew international attention.

Binder said that law would not apply in this case because both the suspect and the victim are juveniles. He did not know the suspect's specific age. The new law prohibits adults from cyber harassment of children.

Under the harassment law that took effect in August 2008, a cyberbullying offense can be charged as a felony if a victim is 17 or younger and the suspect 21 or older.

The first person charged under the new law was 40-year-old Elizabeth Thrasher, also of St. Charles County. She was accused in August of posting photos and personal information about a 17-year-old girl on the "Casual Encounters" Section of Craigslist after an Internet argument. The posting included the teen's picture, e-mail address and cell phone number and suggested the girl was seeking a sexual encounter.

An "Anti-Bullying Week" is planned for Troy's ninth graders later this month. Huddleston said the week was planned before the allegations in the case surfaced.

Yes. I'm OK with this law. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29768471)

Just leave the goatse/tubgirl redirectors alone!

Re:About time (3, Interesting)

qortra (591818) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768527)

Why does this need to be a felony? Support your claim with evidence. At the risk of sounding heartless, teen suicide is not sufficient evidence on its own; there is plenty of that when neither the internet nor harassment is involved.

More than that, can you show that this particular instance should be a felony?

Details of the incident weren't made available, but police say the harassment went on for a few months and involved a dispute over a boy.

That seems pretty vague to me. Should we throw every middle school student into the hoosegow? Typically, middle school is 3 years of constant harassment, and it definitely involves boys.

I'd bet money that this particular instance is a non-issue. The parents of the "victim" probably knew the sheriff.

Re:About time (2)

erroneus (253617) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768801)

Because if it doesn't deprive one of the right to vote and the right to bear arms, then this additional law to criminalize everyone is useless.

Re:About time (5, Insightful)

maudface (1313935) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768551)

Having been a victim of such harassment in the past myself I agree wholeheartedly, I reported it to the police however they fairly resoundingly didn't appear to give a toss.

Given how common it is for one's name to be googled by others these days online harassment can be every bit as damaging as real life harassment, it caused me quite serious upset for some months. This wasn't merely some childish dispute but an ex looking for revenge over every medium possible, creating profiles on facebook, bebo, myspace and various other websites with the specific intent of causing me as much damage as possible.

While I'm in no means in favour of putting the internet under any form of state control this sort of activity warrants police attention and needs to be against the law. It strikes me as insane that so much focus is put on policing the internet to stop file sharers as opposed to protecting the individual.

Re:About time (4, Insightful)

DrLang21 (900992) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768685)

What I don't understand is why is this not covered under previous harassment laws?

Re:About time (1)

qortra (591818) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768827)

Good point. Also, if the profiles that the grandparent's ex created contain lies about him, they might fall under existing defamation laws. From what he said, that might be his larger concern.

Re:About time (5, Insightful)

ChefInnocent (667809) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768829)

Do you believe this girl deserves a minimum stint of 2 years in jail with a maximum of 10 plus a fine up to $10,000? We don't know the details, but regardless, the State of Texas will destroy her life for something she did when she was 16. Our country doesn't rehabilitate people, she won't end up with simple counseling, she will end up in prison for what amounts to stupid shit. The brain is not fully developed by 16, hormones are definitely unstable at 16, and yet she has been charged with a felony for saying something stupid.

By the time her "victim" is in her mid-20's she will likely think nothing of it, but the "assailant" could still be in prison. And because of our wonderful penal system, she will likely be black marked for life and moving in and out of the criminal system. Why this couldn't be stopped at a much lower level, I don't know, but by using this method instead of others our "victim" and "assailant" will very much reverse roles.

Hopefully, she can get a good judge who will she the long term effects of charging her as a felon and reverse course, but I don't have that sort of faith in humanity.

Re:About time (5, Insightful)

cbreaker (561297) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768891)

The punishment doesn't even matter. If she has a felony conviction she's fucked.

Almost every company out there now does background checks. While most of them claim "This won't necessarily disqualify you from this position" it most certainly will.

It's a scarlet letter that keeps people that made some mistakes in their lives down. I have a few friends that are really decent people that made some stupid mistakes when they were 19/20/21 and such, and now 10 years later they still can't get work at a lot of places. Basically, they did what a lot of kids did, but they got caught..

Re:About time (4, Insightful)

cbreaker (561297) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768905)

I agree with you that this is no laughing matter. It's libel, and defamation of character. And, I DO agree that this girl should be punished if this went on ruthlessly for months.

But a felony conviction for a kid? She'll live with that on her criminal record for the rest of her life and she'll have a hard time getting good work..

Re:About time (1)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768627)

posts like yours would also constitute a felony, as I'd consider posting an asinine comment as harassment. how's that for equal logic?

Re:About time (1)

BlackSnake112 (912158) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768681)

Such stuff needs to be a felony.

If that is so, then a whole lot of slashdot posters are going to jail.

Anyone remember the old saying "sticks and stone will break my bones, but words will never hurt me" It went something like that. The point is words, unless written into laws are only words. As long as no one acts on those words, do not get worked up over it. Also laws like this are to far reaching. If they stopped at harm and defrauding I would have agreed with the law. Those are things that can be proved easily. The others are harder to prove. There is a huge difference between saying words to threaten someone and pointing a gun in their face. Both are threats or methods of intimidation one is clearly more forceful.

Re:About time (1)

rahlquist (558509) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768899)

Exactly right. My often repeated favorite train of thought is that words have no power you do not give them.

If I say hookadookie is a racist slur that demeans Joe Red neck I have given that word no power. But if Joe Redneck accepts that definition and allows his emotions to say that word is painful/harmful to him then he has empowered the word.

Words are a conceptualization, as such they have no power.

Re:About time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29768819)

I am going to kill all of you people that thinks this is a felony. Good thing I don't live in Texas!

Re:About time (1)

ElSupreme (1217088) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768879)

I see what you did there.
You threatened some people online.
Thus this would be 3rd degree felony.
But you only threatened people that think what you wrote is a felony.
So in order for this TO BE a felony, someone would have to think it was a felony first.
But if it is a felony, it should be a felony.

start them early (4, Insightful)

CaptainNerdCave (982411) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768343)

we'd better get these young people used to the idea that everyone is a criminal, no sense in letting them think they ever were or ever could be innocent. after all, there's no way to rule law-abiding citizens.

Re:start them early (1)

DrLang21 (900992) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768743)

Online harassment is still harassment in general, which has been, rightfully so in my opinion, illegal for a while. The real question is, why does this need a special law to be prosecuted? How is online harassment any different in it's range of severity from harassment anywhere else?

Kids can say really, really nasty things. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29768347)

When you're a kid, you can have the intellect of an adult in knowing how to hurt someone, but none of the barriers against doing so. Kids are often the ultimate narcissists.

Not that I neccessarily mean that police should be involved, but just to offer a dissenting view from the number of posts that will dismiss this as just "your trousers are so ugly".

Idiocracy (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29768359)

Obviously Texas lawmakers are unfamiliar with the legal principle "Sticks and stones make break my bones, but words will never hurt me!" If I post online that Cmdr Taco is a goat fucker, have I really "harmed" him or his reputation in any way? It's not slander unless a reasonable person would believe it to be true, and no rational person believes Taco actually dates outside his own species (unlike Captain Kirk).

Re:Idiocracy (4, Funny)

Talderas (1212466) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768431)

If I post online that Cmdr Taco is a goat fucker, have I really "harmed" him or his reputation in any way? It's not slander unless a reasonable person would believe it to be true, and no rational person believes Taco actually dates outside his own species (unlike Captain Kirk).

Yet another reason that Captain Picard is the superior Captain compared to Captain Kirk, Goat Fucker.

Re:Idiocracy (2)

Cro Magnon (467622) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768575)

Yet another reason that Captain Picard is the superior Captain compared to Captain Kirk, Goat Fucker.

Meh! Kirk has a goat in every port. Who does Picard have to come home to?

Re:Idiocracy (1)

kalirion (728907) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768817)

Q. You know he wants it...

Re:Idiocracy-Goat Love (3, Insightful)

gpronger (1142181) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768643)

I happen to know that the Commander's relationship with farm animals is a completely enlightened and fulfilling one for all parties involved. It's narrowed minded individuals like yourself which sullies these otherwise warm and positive relationships. Kirk on the other-hand was clearly a sexist (as was the writers which always wrote into the universe aliens which had all the necessary parts to get him hot and bothered).

However, unlike your comment and mine, its easy to differentiate "reality". What has happened on in these cases that they are attempting to address is that the attack on the individual is such that a peer does believe the tripe. At the age we're talking about, both males and females, many are particularly vulnerable. Their friends and what their peers think of them is massively important.

whether we can legislate politeness is another matter. I don't believe that teens are any more villainous than before, its more that the internet allows a wider audience to attack while the anonymity makes it more difficult to defend oneself (though I would at the same time believe that net anonymity is massively important, though I'll post this, non-anonymously).

Re:Idiocracy (1)

Aldenissin (976329) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768651)

Obviously Texas lawmakers are unfamiliar with the legal principle "Sticks and stones make break my bones, but words will never hurt me!" If I post online that Cmdr Taco is a goat fucker, have I really "harmed" him or his reputation in any way? It's not slander unless a reasonable person would believe it to be true, and no rational person believes Taco actually dates outside his own species (unlike Captain Kirk).

Like OMG, you know that dude that started that weird techy website /., or something? Yea him.. Cmdr Paco, sorry Taco. Well anyway you wouldn't believe because I know I didn't, but this guy named Anonymous Coward said that nasty mother fucker's a goat fucker. Why would anyone want to fuck a goat, ya know, that shit is just sick as fuck. Yegghhscreeeuk

Ten minutes later... Yea Aldenissin said that Cmdr Taco is a muthering fucking goat fucker, like someone had pics or something he said. .. Of course it's true! You know they wouldn't believe it without pics or someone seen it! I'm not that stupid, but that shit is just fucking crazy, what sick people do.Blleechhh

As time goes by, the words gets out, embelishes get maginfied more and more, and before you know it, wait hold on a second.. OMG I just heard that of all people fucking Cmdr Taco, that slashdot dude is a fucking goat fucker! WTF!

Re:Idiocracy (1)

santiagodraco (1254708) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768657)

If you know the person and if the persons real name is used, then threats of bodily hard, whether in person or via a chat room/facebook or whatever, should be taken very seriously. There should be no difference in the law.

When all parties are anonymous then it's a different story, obviously. I'm assuming that is not the case here.

I still think Miss Whatshername (the mother that threatened the girl on behalf of her son online) and caused the girls suicide (or contributed to it) should have her ass in jail right now finding out what it's like to be "under threat".

Goat fuckers aside.

Re:Idiocracy (1)

Jeian (409916) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768731)

Words don't hurt people, but they do cause some people to hurt themselves.

Whether that should be illegal, in real life or online, is the question.

Re:Idiocracy (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768741)

Obviously Texas lawmakers are unfamiliar with the legal principle

In Texas lawmakers tend to be unfamiliar with ANY legal principle.

Re:Idiocracy (1)

Rude Turnip (49495) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768967)

So, he likes *those* kinds of kids too?! /s

SHITCOCK! (4, Interesting)

e2d2 (115622) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768367)

There's a big difference between saying "This person, IMHO, is an asshole" and "I'm gonna punch your face until you bleed from the asshole" (just an example, I have never ever said such horrendous things. I'm appalled that you would take me for that kind of person you fucking piece of shit! I'LL KILL YOU!)

But seriously, I tell my kid and other kids in my family - don't say anything you wouldn't say in person. And if you threaten someone in person, well that's assault.

People need to learn that being a SHITCOCK Internet Fuckwad is unacceptable. People also need to grow thicker skin, but when it truly hurts someone it's time to stop.

Re:SHITCOCK! (4, Interesting)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768455)

Agreed, actual threats of physical violence SHOULD be unlawful,,, but if you are threatening to kill someone, it doesn't really matter whether or not you are doing it online, does it? Making a law that ONLY applies to online behavior is assinine -- could she have printed the same statements out on paper and gotten away with it? Why is publishing them online any different?

Re:SHITCOCK! (1)

Dragonslicer (991472) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768861)

Bullseye. Harassment is harassment, regardless of the medium used. Without knowing the details of the case (not like I'd read the article, but someone else here mentioned that details weren't released anyway), it's impossible to make a judgment about whether or not this really is harassment. If it was just some girl calling her classmate a bitch, then that's called high school. If it's a girl repeatedly posting false or misleading information with the intent to cause harm, then that's illegal, no matter how you spread that false information.

Re:SHITCOCK! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29768463)

"if you threaten someone in person, well that's assault."

No that's not assault.

Re:SHITCOCK! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29768519)

It can be assault, but it depends on the particular circumstances (emphasis added):

the threat or attempt to strike another, whether successful or not, provided the target is aware of the danger. The assaulter must be reasonably capable of carrying through the attack.

Taken from law.com Law Dictionary, "Assault" [law.com] .

Re:SHITCOCK! (1)

e2d2 (115622) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768735)

Uhm, actually it is. Unless you have another version you'd like to supply smarty pants.

assault: A violent physical or verbal attack.

Re:SHITCOCK! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29768795)

Wrong. Yes it is is.

  (With a few qualifications, the person being assaulted has to reasonably believe you will follow through and the threat has to be imminent. Saying "I'll kill you in two hours" doesn't count.)

  IANAL, but I am a law student.

Re:SHITCOCK! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29768635)

There's a big difference between saying "This person, IMHO, is an asshole" and "I'm gonna punch your face until you bleed from the asshole" (just an example, I have never ever said such horrendous things. I'm appalled that you would take me for that kind of person you fucking piece of shit! I'LL KILL YOU!)

But seriously, I tell my kid and other kids in my family - don't say anything you wouldn't say in person. And if you threaten someone in person, well that's assault.

People need to learn that being a SHITCOCK Internet Fuckwad is unacceptable. People also need to grow thicker skin, but when it truly hurts someone it's time to stop.

You're an ass. I just spent the last twenty minutes digging through your old comments; no horrendous threats.

If I knew who you are in real life... for wasting my time...

I'm going to be watching your posts from now on and talking shit about you. ... and there's nothing you can do about it.

Re:SHITCOCK! (1)

Interoperable (1651953) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768775)

"I'm gonna punch your face until you bleed from the asshole"

...you fucking piece of shit! I'LL KILL YOU!

But seriously, I tell my kid...

Uh oh.

Re:SHITCOCK! (1)

e2d2 (115622) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768855)

What can I say? I have a sick sense of humor.

Now fuck off

Dear Sir (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29768371)

FROM: Dr Altaka Yurmani
Central Bank of Nigeria
Lagos, Nigeria
01-658-21-2658

TO: Fill-in-your-mark-here
Everytown, USA

Dear Sir:

I have been requested by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company to contact you for assistance in resolving a matter. The Nigerian National Petroleum Company has recently concluded a large number of contracts for oil exploration in the sub-Sahara region. The contracts have immediately produced moneys equaling US$40,000,000. The Nigerian National Petroleum Company is desirous of oil exploration in other parts of the world, however, because of certain regulations of the Nigerian Government, it is unable to move these funds to another region.

You assistance is requested as a non-Nigerian citizen to assist the Nigerian National Petroleum Company, and also the Central Bank of Nigeria, in moving these funds out of Nigeria. If the funds can be transferred to your name, in your United States account, then you can forward the funds as directed by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company. In exchange for your accommodating services, the Nigerian National Petroleum Company would agree to allow you to retain 10%, or US$4 million of this amount.

However, to be a legitimate transferee of these moneys according to Nigerian law, you must presently be a depositor of at least US$100,000 in a Nigerian bank which is regulated by the Central Bank of Nigeria.

If it will be possible for you to assist us, we would be most grateful. We suggest that you meet with us in person in Lagos, and that during your visit I introduce you to the representatives of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company, as well as with certain officials of the Central Bank of Nigeria.

Please call me at your earliest convenience at 18-467-4975. Time is of the essence in this matter; very quickly the Nigerian Government will realize that the Central Bank is maintaining this amount on deposit, and attempt to levy certain depository taxes on it.

Yours truly,

Prince Alyusi Islassis

Hard cases... (1)

HanClinto (621615) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768377)

...make bad laws.

Re:Hard cases... (2, Interesting)

Moryath (553296) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768495)

And the necessary corrolary: Easy cases also make bad law.

"Easy" cases make bad law because they allow for bad decisions - "the law says one thing, but Mr. Greasy-Haired Used Car Salesman is so obviously running a dishonest business..."

"Hard" cases make bad law because they get decided on a very narrow point of law and set of facts, but then a thousand greasy shysters (er... "lawyers") cite them as precedent for cases that have almost no similarity at all.

In fact, the current way our system is cooked up, the overall conclusion to make is probably that adherence to precedent in general makes for shitty law.

Re:Hard cases... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29768785)

While I do agree with you, I can't avoid pointing out to the fact that you, and seemingly, a great majority of people, think these stupid things that are set as precedents, or, in fact, used by lawyers as precedents, are the lawyers' fault.

A lawyer has one of two jobs. Both involve winning by any legal means possible, if that means saying you smoke pot to make the jury believe you're a crazy psychopath, or, on the other hand, bringing you out to court with a shrink saying you were verbally abused for years and you killing your wife was just the last straw, so the jury can take pity and sentence you to a lighter sentence, he'll do it.

The whole precedent asshattery is brought to you by juries, who choose to convict and by judges, who refuse to say "well fuck you, that precedent clearly doesn't apply here".

Two to Ten Years and Up To Ten Grand (4, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768381)

Apparently Texas' penal code reads for felonies of the third degree [state.tx.us] :

12.34. THIRD DEGREE FELONY PUNISHMENT. (a) An individual adjudged guilty of a felony of the third degree shall be punished by imprisonment in the institutional division for any term of not more than 10 years or less than 2 years.

(b) In addition to imprisonment, an individual adjudged guilty of a felony of the third degree may be punished by a fine not to exceed $10,000.

Of course, she's a minor being 16 so the punishment will most likely be up to the judge and expunged at age 18 but for you adults who like to poke and prod people online ... better think twice in states where these kind of laws are enforced lest you target the wrong person.

Re:Two to Ten Years and Up To Ten Grand (2, Insightful)

Cocoronixx (551128) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768419)

This is totally ridiculous... That news article reads as if it was posted on The Onion.

Re:Two to Ten Years and Up To Ten Grand (1)

AI0867 (868277) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768711)

Like this one [reuters.com] ? I still can't believe that one either.

List of Texas' Third Degree Felonies (5, Informative)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768513)

Sorry to reply to myself but I found a list of felonies in the third degree for the state of Texas [grinterlaw.com] if you want to compare this new law to older laws resulting in the same degree of punishment. Apparently a third degree felony punishment (as noted in my parent post) can be meted out for anything ranging from arson to assault to conducting a game of bingo without a license [bingointexas.com] .

Re:Two to Ten Years and Up To Ten Grand (1)

rwv (1636355) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768669)

for you adults who like to poke and prod people online ... better think twice

Thinking twice is generally good advise whenever the action that you are going to take can be perceived as "being a dick". While they can't make general rules against "being a dick", I think having enforceable laws like this is a good help.

I'm not sure "2 years in prison" is a good punishment for this. I think 2 weeks in prison for "petty internet harassment" that doesn't have any serious outcome would be more fitting for MOST cases. Regarding the Lori Drew case, however, 10 years would seem fair.

Re:Two to Ten Years and Up To Ten Grand (1)

Jaysyn (203771) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768911)

It's a waste of taxpayers money. Lori Drew was harassing a minor child. There are already laws for that.

think of the trolls! (1)

el_tedward (1612093) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768395)

This is outrageous! What will we do if we can't go around the internet spewing ridiculous and inflammatory comments at the expense of others for our own amusement?!

Re:think of the trolls ... er (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768529)

"Think of the Children!"
"The Children are Trolls"

"Uh... I meant only think about SOME children SOME of the time... I think?"

Is the internet different from being in person? (1)

TheRealPacmanJones (1600187) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768399)

If they did these same things in person I imagine the worst penalty would be some detention or a being grounded. Should it be different? I suppose you have a much larger audience(potentially) on the internet but should it be a felony. I think its overkill.

Forget trolling (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29768423)

Here's the new hot sport: intimidation bait!

Step 1: Write something so stupid and of bad taste that some people will just have to reply to intimidate or threaten you.
Step 2: See a picture of them in handcuffs in tomorrow's newspapers.

BEHOLD! (3, Funny)

j00r0m4nc3r (959816) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768425)

Can of worms, I dub thee COLOSUS!

Re:BEHOLD! (1)

ArmyOfAardvarks (1281154) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768523)

Please do not harm, defraud, intimidate, or threaten the Colossus. He is neither a can nor is does he contain of worms. Such remarks can be harmful to his self-esteem.

Finally (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29768483)

It is about fucking time that people start getting punished for this. It has been far to long where people could harass you online, and go free.

I'm sure most of you have heard about that gal committing suicide because of the online bullying.

Finally justice will be handed out to individuals like that.

-BigL

Hopefully this case is overturned on appeal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29768499)

If you review this ridiculous law (http://www.legis.state.tx.us/tlodocs/81R/billtext/pdf/HB02003I.pdf ) you can deduce that it is a Class A misdemeanor to uses the name or persona of another person to create a web page on or to post one or more messages on a commercial social networking site with the intent to embarrass any person. It could becomes a third degree felony if the actor commits the offense with the intent to "harm" another. Hopefully this case is overturned on appeal.

Hmmm.. (2)

windex82 (696915) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768505)

I'm not so sure laws needed to be made for something that amounts to name calling. If the name calling extends to harassment we already have laws in place.

The only fix to this problem is proper parrenting and teaching kids how to respect and really communicate with one another. Even removing anonymity doesn't fix this problem (and I am completely against any attempt to remove it). I am aware that Anecdotes aren't evidence but I've been "bullied" online (if you want to call it that) by girls who went to the same school as I, they were well aware I knew who they were and they knew who I was. How did I respond? I walked up to them the next day and kindly asked them to continue calling me names now that we are face to face. They just slithered away muttering half apologies and never messaged me again.

Re:Hmmm.. (1)

ffreeloader (1105115) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768831)

I'm not so sure laws needed to be made for something that amounts to name calling. If the name calling extends to harassment we already have laws in place.

The only fix to this problem is proper parrenting and teaching kids how to respect and really communicate with one another. Even removing anonymity doesn't fix this problem (and I am completely against any attempt to remove it). I am aware that Anecdotes aren't evidence but I've been "bullied" online (if you want to call it that) by girls who went to the same school as I, they were well aware I knew who they were and they knew who I was. How did I respond? I walked up to them the next day and kindly asked them to continue calling me names now that we are face to face. They just slithered away muttering half apologies and never messaged me again.

How is this supposed to work when the parents are the ones teaching their kids to be assholes? My son-in-law actively teaches his kids to be assholes. He thinks it great to be an asshole and thinks his kids need to follow in his footsteps.

Add to parents like him those parents who just don't care enough about their kids to discipline them, and then further add those parents who think that anyone who crosses their precious snowflake, even when their snowflake is the problem, is there to be abused. This isn't even taking into account those parents who are too afraid to discipline their kids.

Society has long since degenerated past the point of being able to trust all, maybe even most, parents to want/be_able to instill positive character traits in their kids. I hate the idea of more government, but there has to be some way of making sure there are consequences for negative behavior as there are most definitely a lot of parents who will never do that job.

Good Idea (3, Interesting)

Bagellord (1656577) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768521)

I honestly think this is a good law. Case in point: a kid in my little brother's class created a myspace page using my brother's name and picture and put some truly disturbing stuff on there. We only found out about it because one of his classmates texted him asking about it. The headmaster of our school almost expelled him over it. This is a very serious thing. It can cause emotional damage to the victim, and can ruin their reputation. The kid who did it sent all kinds of rude and nasty messages to people who saw my brother's page and sent friend requests. This law is a good idea.

Re:Good Idea (1)

windex82 (696915) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768553)

There are already laws in place. We DO NOT need to create a duplicate laws just because the internet is involved.

Re:Good Idea (1)

ckblackm (1137057) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768777)

We may not need new laws.. but what we DO need is ENFORCEMENT of the old laws.

What's the big deal (2, Insightful)

onyxruby (118189) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768533)

Harassment online should be no different than harassment offline. If I send an email threating to break someone's leg how is that any different than a message over the phone or in person? Why do people make a big deal that otherwise illegal behavior is somehow legal online? Intimidation, coercion and other forms of threatening behavior are all readily accepted as illegal offline, this case has absolutely no defense in the first amendment (and I'm usually the one defending it).

Re:What's the big deal (2, Insightful)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768645)

This wasn't 'a threat to harm', the message itself -is- the harm.

People get up in arms about it because it's -really- hard to make text do actual harm.

We don't have have -any- actual information about the case, so argument for either side are completely pointless right now.

Maybe this is as it should be (3, Interesting)

Jiro (131519) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768543)

If you go to the article, the article explains:

<i>It seems the goal of the new law was to discourage using the name or persona of another person to create a Web page.</i>

If she really did this, she should be punished. Now, there's a good point that a felony charge may be too strict and existing laws about libel and false light should cover it (though there could be loopholes that keep it from doing so), but the general idea that we shouldn't tolerate this behavior is pretty sensible. Contrary to popular belief, trolling isn't actually good, and the fact that you can get away with it doesn't mean you should get away with it. Harassment is wrong, and I have no problem with the law punishing it.

(And for the Slashdotter who said "she wouldn't be charged with a felony if this was done in person", exactly how do you put up a web page under someone else's name in person?)

Re:Maybe this is as it should be (1)

windex82 (696915) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768583)

It seems the goal of the new law was to discourage using the name or persona of another person to create a Web page.

Aren't there already laws in place that discourage one from claiming to be someone they are not? Why not use the existing law instead of wasting time and effort creating a new law because a web page is involved?

Re:Maybe this is as it should be (1)

urulokion (597607) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768933)

It seems the goal of the new law was to discourage using the name or persona of another person to create a Web page.

Aren't there already laws in place that discourage one from claiming to be someone they are not? Why not use the existing law instead of wasting time and effort creating a new law because a web page is involved?

This is another thing that irks me. Creating new laws for specific cases which are already covered by other laws. For instance, the banning of text while driving. The name varies from place to place, but in my town it's called Inattentive Driving. You can get a ticket for eating, putting on make up, reading a map, texting while driving a car.

Re:Maybe this is as it should be (1)

urulokion (597607) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768857)

The given intent of a law is irrelevant, for the most part, to police and prosecutors. They will prosecute you based on the wording of the law. And they'll bend the law to the breaking point and beyond if they want to nail you (Lori Drew case from California).

Bufford T. Justice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29768561)

Your Honor...Jr. here is a sensitive young man and his mama, God rest her soul, would not approve of such a slack jawed use of our great American language. Would "Your Honor" be so kind as to make a law that would severly punish those little pukes who would discrace her wishes which were always in the best interest of the "Independent" state of Texas under the Lord God Almighty himself.

Existing case law? (1)

rayharris (1571543) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768563)

Is there any existing case law that confirms that "IRL" speech with "intent to harm, defraud, intimidate, or threaten" is a felony? If so, then just because it's online, doesn't mean you can get away with it.

I can see "defraud" (I promise a 15% return on your investment) and "threaten" (Steal my girl and I'll cap your knees) as speech types that aren't protected, but I'm not so sure about "harm" and "intimidate". We'll just have to see. One things for certain, it'll make an interesting case to watch.

LOL (2, Interesting)

jafiwam (310805) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768579)

third degree felony if the person posts one or more messages on a social networking site with the intent to harm, defraud, intimidate or threaten another person

LOL, by that standard, the entire fucking state of Texas should be arrested for the shit I see them say every day about the President. Don't mess with Texas!*

*And by "mess" we mean to consider a democratically and validly elected official office legitimate, and especially if you know, he ain't your kind of bigot.

Re:LOL (4, Informative)

bertoelcon (1557907) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768767)

Don't mess with Texas!*

*And by "mess" we mean to consider a democratically and validly elected official office legitimate, and especially if you know, he ain't your kind of bigot.

Actually the "Don't mess with Texas!" line is about littering.

Re:LOL (3, Funny)

jafiwam (310805) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768873)

Yes, I know. Which makes it even more amusing when it's used by Texans in a different way.

See, humor and sarcasm have many layers....

Most of which you seem unable to penetrate.

Re:LOL (1)

e2d2 (115622) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768921)

Heh, you said penetrate.

I just think it's funny that you call them out for having a skewed point of view. The entire state. See the irony?

Now go get your shine box and shine those busted insults.

Re:LOL (1)

e2d2 (115622) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768787)

You read what everyone in the state of Texas says everyday? Where is this publication and how do I subscribe?

.... on internet (1)

iamacat (583406) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768587)

Why punish based on medium rather than content? Is it any different from posting paper threatening messages on a school bulletin board? Again, lawmakers think Internet has some scary magic powers rather than being a new communication medium for old humans.

Hell it's Texas (1)

Kushy (225928) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768589)

She should be on death row by Monday morning.

The law's not that bad, actually (5, Insightful)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768595)

Here's the text [state.tx.us] . Basically all it targets are people who harass others online assuming another person's identity. One girl creating a profile for another, where she claims to be a homosexual drug user who steals to support her habit would fall under this. Generic harassment doesn't. About the only thing that is far-reaching, and it's likely based on ignorance, is the "domain address" language which could be twisted by a prosecutor.

Perhaps the law goes too far on the punishment side, but it doesn't prohibit any behavior which is protected by the first amendment. Only a moron would say "there are first amendment issues" since this law is little more than a double whammy on libel and slander.

Re:The law's not that bad, actually (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29768867)

They should be arrested for underlining the entire text of the law... my eyes are bleeding.

Re:The law's not that bad, actually (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29768955)

So, the law forbids fraud?

Or is it just specifically identity theft?

Or is it just both of these things, but on a 'com-put-ter'?

Caption is misleading... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29768603)

The caption here is somewhat deceptive. I believe that the law that's being referenced is as follows:

Sec. 33.07. ONLINE HARASSMENT. (a) A person commits an offense if the person uses the name or persona of another person to create a web page on or to post one or more messages on a commercial social networking site:
(1) without obtaining the other person's consent; and
(2) with the intent to harass, embarrass, intimidate, or threaten any person.

If that's the case it's really the misappropriation of identity that's the problem. Without that element there's no way this survives constitutional challenge (can't turn protected speech to a felony just because it's published). To be honest I'm so fed up with all forms of identity theft I have no sympathy for offenders.

Let's have some fun with the law! (2, Interesting)

Interoperable (1651953) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768611)

/. should try to get a volunteer prosecuted for violating a Term of Service in a hilarious manner. Try to get some free legal counsel for both sides from civil liberties group or from a law firm looking for publicity and then run the sham law suit as far as possible in the court system.

I think it's critical to set precedent by addressing the issue directly rather than via an emotionally confused case. By the same token, I think it would be fun to run a few sham software licence related law suits through the courts. Come on! It'll be fun!

What she should have done.. (1)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768665)

What she should have done is get her victim to sign up to some app with small print in the "Accept" opting in to the harassment emails. After all it worked for Toyota [slashdot.org] .

Approached from the wrong angle (4, Insightful)

DrivingBear (931124) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768671)

We should really look at the emotional/psychological reasons that these kids are attacking each other and come up with strategies for treating those issues rather than arresting children for mistakes they make online.

So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29768771)

Does this mean I can't threaten people on EVE for ransom money?

discourage using somebody else's name online (1)

rwv (1636355) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768813)

FTFA

It seems the goal of the new law was to discourage using the name or persona of another person to create a Web page.

It seems like there is a movement to make it difficult to pretend to be somebody you're not on the internet. I *think* this is a good thing.

details man, i gotta have details (1)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768877)

harassment is not the same as trolling i hope.

I can get to be a really nasty troll on craigslist messageboards, I don't threaten anyone, I just really snide with four letter words (really really snide and cuss like a drunken sailor)

You can't mod me down. (2, Funny)

clandonald (1652847) | more than 4 years ago | (#29768923)

It might hurt my feelings and then you goto jail.
Hurt feeling is a stupid basis for anything my wifes feelings get hurt if I tell her to wake up in the morning. And if I text her back that I'm not going to the bar to get her wings at midnight then her feelings are hurt. Well she is 250 LB because since we got married she does nothing but eat and sit on her ass. And any effort to get her to do anything hurts her feelings so she has to eat more just to show me she can get even fatter.
Hurt feelings are stupid people need to grow up and stop being such wuussies.

Wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29768941)

Wow, go to the news story and read the comments. What a bunch of idiots, saying she deserved it. Does free speech exist anymore?

I love how these people are so willing and eager to give up their rights, to protect some peoples 'feelings'. Anyone that made a comment saying it wasn't right or too harsh (Felony for hateful speech on the internet? Haha...) got mass thumbs down.

Ah well, it's Texas I guess, so I'm not surprised. That place is fucked up anyways.

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