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Prosecuted For Critical Twittering

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the tweets-are-for-jailbirds dept.

Electronic Frontier Foundation 334

lee1 writes "The Electronic Frontier Foundation is trying to urge a federal court (PDF) to block what they claim is the unconstitutional use of the federal anti-stalking law to prosecute a man for posting criticism of a public figure to Twitter. The law was originally targeted against crossing state lines for the purpose of stalking, but was modified in 2005 to make the 'intentional infliction of emotional distress' by the use of 'any interactive computer service' a crime. The prosecution's theory in this case is that using Twitter to criticize a public figure can be a criminal act if the person's feelings are hurt."

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334 comments

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Help, help, I'm being oppressed! (4, Funny)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#36950446)

I'm suing all of Slashdot for imposing years of emotional distress on me every April 1st. I'll settle for no less than $1 million and a public flogging of kdawson.

Re:Help, help, I'm being oppressed! (4, Funny)

Toe, The (545098) | more than 3 years ago | (#36950510)

I'm suing you for the emotional duress of making me consider that /.'s April Fools jokes aren't funny. How dare you criticize my sense of humor??

Re:Help, help, I'm being oppressed! (1)

Whalou (721698) | more than 3 years ago | (#36951116)

I guess you agree with the public flogging.

Re:Help, help, I'm being oppressed! (1)

jhoegl (638955) | more than 3 years ago | (#36951220)

one million dollars OR a public flogging of kdawson, because it would be worth it.

Re:Help, help, I'm being oppressed! (3, Funny)

Crudely_Indecent (739699) | more than 3 years ago | (#36950634)

I'm suing you for emotional distress caused by misquoting Monty Python [imdb.com] in your subject.

Re:Help, help, I'm being oppressed! (3, Funny)

cforciea (1926392) | more than 3 years ago | (#36950756)

Bloody peasant...

Re:Help, help, I'm being oppressed! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36950902)

Funny? These fucking kids jokes are lame. I'm suing slashdot, I'm patenting your patent. Fuck off already you people in the juvenile retardation program. Go back to watching Beavis and Butthead.

Re:Help, help, I'm being oppressed! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36950938)

Thanks for your opinion. These jokes are pretty lame. What kind of intelligent comment would you like to see? Maybe post an example for us so that we can see how to do it.

Re:Help, help, I'm being oppressed! (2)

Terrasque (796014) | more than 3 years ago | (#36951070)

Listen, that is just plain idiotic. Noone is forcing you to visit Slashdot those days, and .. wait, did you say kdawson?

Hmm..

Do you have a page accepting donations for your cause, or something?

is it slander? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36950460)

if you are a public figure you need a tough skin. how can it be a crime unless it slander?

Re:is it slander? (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36950566)

Even if it's slander it can't be a crime, as slander is a civil matter not a criminal one.

Re:is it slander? (1)

s4ndm4n (1361751) | more than 3 years ago | (#36951078)

Agreed. I don't see how anyone, as a public figure, can complain about criticism at all. They chose that field of work, it comes with the territory, whether they like it or not, people ought to be able to state their opinions, outside of slanderous statements.

Brilliant (1)

Stargoat (658863) | more than 3 years ago | (#36950462)

This is absolutely brilliant. While we are at it, let's bring up a private prosecution against old butch Oscar Wilde. That will learn those satirists.

Re:Brilliant (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36950612)

I'm going to create a censor bot, when talking to a person, you don't talk directly to that person, but input what you want to say to that bot. The bot checks the laws and goes through a list of available replies, after the necessary amount of censure, I use one of the available responses. It would seem that soon those responses will be fewer and a lot shorter.

I wonder how they'll apply this to deaf-mutes.

Re:Brilliant (1)

Stormthirst (66538) | more than 3 years ago | (#36950822)

I'd answer your post, but my Lawyer-bot 5000 (tm) told me not to. In fact, I'm posting this reply against my lawyer's advice.

Re:Brilliant (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36951068)

Lawyerbot-5001> I'm so depressed. I was going to reply to this post, but after passing it through all the non-suit filters, there was nothing left but the letter 'e'. It doesn't matter, no one would read it anyway. So i'll just sit here, minding my own bits...

Re:Brilliant (1)

Whalou (721698) | more than 3 years ago | (#36951170)

I was going to reply to this post, but after passing it through all the non-suit filters, there was nothing left but the letter 'e'.

Awesome!
There's finally a use for all the left over Es from printing out copies of La disparition or it's English translation A Void.

Re:Brilliant (1)

poena.dare (306891) | more than 3 years ago | (#36951150)

Holy crap! You want a time machine? Just convince lawyers the can go back in time and sue people and I guarantee they'll invent one.

Awww... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36950488)

Did someone get their feelings hurt? Maybe they should go back to grade school where someone will give a sh!t.

LOL (2)

gcnaddict (841664) | more than 3 years ago | (#36950496)

The prosecution's theory in this case is that using Twitter to criticize a public figure can be a criminal act if the person's feelings are hurt.

Yay, a law that's about to be ruled as unconstitutional!

Re:LOL (2)

molnarcs (675885) | more than 3 years ago | (#36950574)

The prosecution's theory in this case is that using Twitter to criticize a public figure can be a criminal act if the person's feelings are hurt.

Yay, a law that's about to be ruled as unconstitutional!

Let's hope so. Although at this rate, it's going to be passed sooner or later (I give it 10 years). Yes, that's the direction we are heading. The simple thought that proposing this law is possible is worrying enough. That's where we are now - politicians proposing laws such as this without flinching... that's normal today. They don't think there's an issue. They don't think anyone important would think there's an issue. That's quite tragic.

Re:LOL (0)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 3 years ago | (#36950686)

Stupid, unconstitutional laws have been written and passed since practically the start of the union. This case is nothing special. Hell, we still have "In God We Trust" on all of our coins and that started in 1864 and was made the official motto of the US in 1956 by law.

Re:LOL (1)

Dishevel (1105119) | more than 3 years ago | (#36950930)

I do not understand what part of the constitution that goes against?

Enlighten me. Please.

Re:LOL (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36950978)

The part with the things about the first amendment.

Re:LOL (2, Informative)

Raffaello (230287) | more than 3 years ago | (#36951050)

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;

iow, "In God We Trust" is both an establishment of deist religion, and an establishment of monotheism, and makes atheists, non-deists, and polytheists, second class citizens - i.e., they are explicitly, and of necessity excluded from the "We" of "In God We Trust." That motto labels anyone who doesn't believe in the monotheist deist god effectively un-american.

Re:LOL (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36951154)

Wow. Really.
"In God We Trust" on money Establishes a religion?

Well. I guess if you are willing to reach that far to call it unconstitutional then "Bravo Sir".

Wait. I guess you are related to the prosecutor of this case.
Both of you reaching as far as needed to get the result you want.

Re:LOL (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 3 years ago | (#36951270)

Wow. Really.
"In God We Trust" on money Establishes a religion?

No. But it does clearly "respect an establishment of religion," namely all branches of monotheism.

I'm sorry but if you can't be bothered to read the 1st amendment you can't expect anyone to give your opinion on the 1st amendment any weight.

Re:LOL (0)

operagost (62405) | more than 3 years ago | (#36951252)

If deism is a religion, then so is atheism. They just believe in one fewer god.

Not related to the constitutionality, but consider the impact of an atheist government, rather than a disaffected deist one. The concern is, if we don't consider our inalienable human rights to be derived from a deity, where do they come from?

Re:LOL (0)

Obfuscant (592200) | more than 3 years ago | (#36951308)

iow, "In God We Trust" is both an establishment of deist religion,

Wrong.

and an establishment of monotheism,

Wrong.

and makes atheists, non-deists, and polytheists, second class citizens

Strike three.

Nothing in that motto forces anyone to believe or not believe anything other than that the object they hold has some extrinsic value that can be used in exchange for goods or services. Atheists are not forced to believe in God, nor are polytheists required to believe in a single God. Whatever requirement you think exists is a figment.

That motto labels anyone who doesn't believe in the monotheist deist god effectively un-american.

Strike four.

I would suggest you look up the history of the US and British system under which we lived prior to the revolution. The "establishment of religion" clause deals specifically with the Church of England and the requirements for subjects to be subject to that church as well as king and country. Nothing in the motto "In God We Trust" creates anything even remotely similar to the Church of England or the effects thereof, nor does the phrase "under God" in the Pledge. (Here's a simple solution to any problems you have with the latter: don't say it.)

Perhaps you haven't noticed, but the US House has an official chaplain, and the first continental congress was opened with a prayer by Reverend Jacob Duché Rector of Christ Church of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. If the founders had thought that simply saying "In God We Trust" was unacceptable, they wouldn't have done that.

Re:LOL (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#36951076)

Freedom of religion.
My god hates money and considers it to be the height of blasphemy to print such a statement on our money.

Re:LOL (1)

nabsltd (1313397) | more than 3 years ago | (#36951284)

I think they are referring to the mistaken belief that the government using the word "God" is a violation of the First Amendment.

This belief came about because some of the interpretations of the First Amendment used the phrase "separation of church and state" (taken out of context from a letter by Thomas Jefferson). The reality is that the prohibition is against showing legal favoritism to any religion in such a way that it causes a person of a particular religion to become disenfranchised or face similar discrimination by to the government. There is nothing in the First Amendment that prohibits the government from acknowledging that religious beliefs exist, and in fact they were an important part of the founding of the US.

The "separation of church and state" phrase is popular with people who want the government to take exactly their view on how the government should deal with religion. It is just vague enough to allow whatever interpretation that is needed. For example, if taken to the logical extreme, that phrase would mean that the government could write no law that concerned any church. Or, it could be the basic "no government-mandated church". But, with that wide a range of interpretation, every lawyer is happy.

Re:LOL (1)

molnarcs (675885) | more than 3 years ago | (#36950954)

Stupid, unconstitutional laws have been written and passed since practically the start of the union. This case is nothing special. Hell, we still have "In God We Trust" on all of our coins and that started in 1864 and was made the official motto of the US in 1956 by law.

True, but "In God We Trust" is just a sign of the lack of evolution (pun intended) - and I don't see it changing any time soon. The people who don't believe in God are a tiny minority, and that minority is not growing. This law, however is a clear regression. Admittedly, this might be just false nostalgia, but I don't think in the 80s and 90s passing such a law would have been feasible. Not even bringing the idea up publicly. Since then, we (I'm not a U.S. citizen, but it can be felt globally) patriot acts, DMCAs, etc. to soften us up. Very visible systems of control to make us used to it (TSA comes to mind, which serves this purpose as well as generates large profits for the manufacturers and their friends). And now, this law wont even rise a "meh." in the media (and through them, to the general public). Oh, did I mention the media? When was the last time we had real investigative and independent journalism? Watergate? What wikileaks did put to shame all traditional medias - this should have been their job, no? I'm pessimistic about the direction we are heading.

Re:LOL (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 3 years ago | (#36951194)

?The people who don't believe in God are a tiny minority, and that minority is not growing.

While I think that would have absolutely nothing to do with the import of this law, I'm pretty sure you are wrong too. Religiosity has been on a steady decline in the US for decades. Furthermore, the number of hindus and other polytheists has been increasing.

Re:LOL (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 3 years ago | (#36950742)

The simple thought that proposing this law is possible is worrying enough.

They're not "proposing" this law. It was passed into law in 2005.

Re:LOL (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 3 years ago | (#36950818)

Quite right.

It's rather hard to prosecute someone under a law that hasn't been passed yet.

Ex post facto and all that good stuff.

Re:LOL (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 3 years ago | (#36950904)

Hmm, reading the text of this law, it looks like it specifically removes "interactive computer services" from the definition of "telecommunications devices" covered by this law.

Which would almost certainly prevent twittering being counted as "harassing" under this law.

"First, we hang all the lawyers" comes to mind here...

Re:LOL (1)

Sancho (17056) | more than 3 years ago | (#36950840)

They proposed it at one point, and the fact that they thought it was a good idea is terrifying.

Re:LOL (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36950758)

Well it is not impossible to change.
As a foreigner, when I compare the USA to say, Egypt, I really think Americans are just big whiners who are actually happy to have politicians to tell them what to do.
If you think your country is broken, vote. If you think voting doesn't work, you can protest - other countries did it. A population can always revolt and force their government to adopt laws that the people want.

Laws against corporations giving money to politicians.
Laws that forbid politicians/parties to spend more than $10,000 on election campaigns.
Laws that force every political meeting, discussion, written paper, etc. to be transparent and available to the public. On the Internet.
Laws that guarantee education will always get x% of taxes at minimum.
Laws against any form of censorship of speech, because censorship always ends up abused.

I look at the USA and I make observations. One of them is that Americans have guns, lots of them. They complain constantly that the system is broken yet you don't see Americans grabbing their guns, going in the street, forming crowds, marching to political offices and forcing change. I look at Egypt or Tunisia and I see people who are not so well armed revolting.
So no, Americans do not have a problem with the situation. I do not buy that. They enjoy it. As a neutral observer, I believe if Americans really had a problem with their government, you'd have strong protests over there. You don't, you just have people whining on the Internet. You like your situation.

(And for the record, I'm not encouraging armed protests against the government in the USA. That would possibly be illegal. I'm simply observing that such protests aren't happening, and from that observation I conclude Americans like things the way they are currently. That is all I'm doing. Obviously.)

Re:LOL (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36950828)

The problem is that the first 4 of your 5 laws are stupid. Furthermore, we already have the 5th law (First Amendment ring a bell?), but it is not doing much now is it?

Re:LOL (1)

Nickodeimus (1263214) | more than 3 years ago | (#36951212)

The first 4 or 5 are not stupid. None of what he/she says is stupid. They are all observations of the possibilities based on his observation of what Americans do and whet they complain about.

I will add that the vast majority of the US populace is too stupid and/or lazy to do anything beyond what the television tells them to do. They are too lazy to read. To stupid to analyze what they read. Too lazy to seek multiple sources and viewpoints for what they read. Too stupid to formulate their own opinions instead of using the opinions of those on TV. Further, they are also too stupid to learn what is taught in middle school about how the country works and they do not have an understanding of what they can do about their dissatisfaction with the government.

The A/C above is talking about using the methods we are empowered with by our laws to make changes we want. We are too stupid and too lazy to do so.

Re:LOL (1)

realityimpaired (1668397) | more than 3 years ago | (#36951256)

Actually, numbers 1-3 are already implemented in some parts of the world. The numbers are somewhat different, but in Canada, for example, corporations are not allowed to contribute money to political campaigns, the amount of money that can be spent on a political campaign is limited (about $110,000 USD, but depends on the population of the riding), there's a cap on the personal donation limit to a political campaign (no individual can give more than about $1100 USD to a campaign per year), and all accounting and political discussions are a matter of public record.

As for a law against censorship of any kind, I would argue vehemently against that, because there are cases where censorship is in the interest of the greater good. It's a tired old horse, but something about shouting "Fire!" in a movie theatre? And that's not even touching inciteful speech or hate speech.

Number 4, as much as I like it, is a bit naive to expect. Especially considering that it makes no caveats about what kind of education has to be taught, or where that money has to come from.

Re:LOL (1)

Flyerman (1728812) | more than 3 years ago | (#36950896)

We have an overabundance of guns and crazy people. This makes protesting to the point of revolution a very dangerous idea.

Re:LOL (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 3 years ago | (#36951132)

We have an overabundance of guns and crazy people. This makes protesting to the point of revolution a very dangerous idea.

Well, if you want to protest anything to the point of revolution, you might want to consider getting the guys with guns on your side.

Re:LOL (1)

MarkvW (1037596) | more than 3 years ago | (#36951198)

We have an overabundance of guns and crazy people. This makes protesting to the point of revolution a very dangerous idea.

Well, if you want to protest anything to the point of revolution, you might want to consider getting the guys with guns on your side.

The revolution eats its children. Please don't forget that.

Re:LOL (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36950912)

I suppose in large part America is mostly okay. Outrageous things like this come down the pike frequently, it is like that in virtually every advanced free society (and to the trolls who want to say "lol U.S. not advanced not free," please just spare us the trouble of reading your mindless rant). But by and large, it hasn't risen to the level of a revolution.

Re:LOL (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36951042)

It's not new, it started almost immediately after the Constitution was ratified. Remember the Alien and Sedition Acts? 1798, four laws passed which allowed anyone overly critical of the Government to be imprisoned. Not exactly a shining moment in the history of the freedom of speech. It's human nature to want to silence opposition, which is why we have the rule of law in the first place.

Re:LOL (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36950744)

The prosecution's theory in this case is that using Twitter to criticize a public figure can be a criminal act if the person's feelings are hurt.

Why do I get the feeling that the above isn't how the prosecution describe it? Seriously, this reads like a ridiculous caricature of whatever their argument actually is, which is fine for the EFF in trying to persuade the court (who already knows the other side of the story) but absolutely stupid in an article supposedly helping us to discuss and/or form opinions. What is the point of this?

Re:LOL (2)

starless (60879) | more than 3 years ago | (#36951110)

Perhaps of interest is this web page which seems to claim that the defendant was previously convicted of scamming (the same?) Buddhist group.
http://tenpathetic.wordpress.com/category/william-cassidy/page/2/ [wordpress.com]
This suggests there may perhaps be a bit more to this case than the simple criticism of a "public" figure.

Re:LOL (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 3 years ago | (#36951016)

Does it matter? The public official got his revenge on the twitter user. Even the best possible outcome of this situation will not save the twitter user from spending months, if not years defending this, and thousands of dollars of his own money.

Prosecutors, lawyers, judges, and politicians all too often get away with wielding the courts as a weapon. We need a way to hold them accountable for this. Any time a prosecutor tries to exceed his constitutional authority, he should be punished. Seriously punished. This prosecutor deserves to go to jail.

Re:LOL (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 3 years ago | (#36951204)

After learning that corporations are people too, and have rights, and that money is speech, so restricting the amount of politicans that corporations can buy is unconstitutional, I'd say that anything can be made constitutional. All it requires is absurd interpretation of the constitution and/or reality.

Re:LOL (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36951232)

I doubt it, we aren't allowed to understand what laws are constitutional or not. We need an army of lawyers, professors, politicians, and a priest to tell us common folk how to interpret it.

Haha (4, Interesting)

afidel (530433) | more than 3 years ago | (#36950506)

I swear the prosecution must not like the law because that's an obvious setup to have it struck down on first amendment grounds. It's like the perfect test case to get the law thrown out, especially with the current supreme court and their love of allowing anything under the auspices of political speech.

Re:Haha (1)

stephanruby (542433) | more than 3 years ago | (#36950928)

Do you know what was said? I followed all the links, but I didn't see what was said.

Don't know who this "public person" is (0)

dyingtolive (1393037) | more than 3 years ago | (#36950508)

but she sounds like a major thundercunt. You guys remember the age of sanity, when people did go running and crying to the courts when their FUCKING FEELINGS were hurt? Jesus Tapdancing Christ!

Re:Don't know who this "public person" is (1)

HarrySquatter (1698416) | more than 3 years ago | (#36950536)

You guys remember the age of sanity, when people did go running and crying to the courts when their FUCKING FEELINGS were hurt?

So the age of sanity is now?

Re:Don't know who this "public person" is (1)

dyingtolive (1393037) | more than 3 years ago | (#36950644)

Yeah, that's what happens when you're too angry to preview. Been a long day. Oh well.

Re:Don't know who this "public person" is (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36950638)

She's the founder of the "Kunzang Odsal Palyul Changchub Cholin" somewhere according to the brief. That must be specific enough to pin it down. It's on Facebook, but I choose not to have an account. What the guy said, may or may not have been out of line, but speech is permitted under the 1st amendment provided it is not presented as a threat. Dissenting opinions must be voiced, else they fester and become much more than they should.

Re:Don't know who this "public person" is (2)

MetalliQaZ (539913) | more than 3 years ago | (#36950694)

According to the brief, she is the founder of www.tara.org. Can't find anything that states what the tweet contained, but I assume it was something that criticized her role as a Buddhist leader...or something like that.

Re:Don't know who this "public person" is (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36950716)

FTFPDF:
  She also makes her public teachings available to her followers through the Buddhist
organization Kunzang Odsal Palyul Changchub Choling ("KPC") which she founded

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jetsunma_Ahkon_Lhamo

Re:Don't know who this "public person" is (1)

Freddybear (1805256) | more than 3 years ago | (#36951058)

I don't care how many followers she's got, she's nuts. Classic schizophrenic "religious experience".

Re:Don't know who this "public person" is (2)

couchslug (175151) | more than 3 years ago | (#36950862)

"You guys remember the age of sanity, "

I remember the pretense that there was such. It's the "Good Old Days" fallacy.

Re:Don't know who this "public person" is (1)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | more than 3 years ago | (#36951126)

I remember the days when kids knew about the "Good Old Days fallacy". Things have been going down hill since then.

Re:Don't know who this "public person" is (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 3 years ago | (#36951210)

Obligatory:

When I was going up things were better! You didn't have to work hard just to pay your bills! You could poop wherever you liked and people would clean it up! And whenever you screamed someone put boobs in your face and FOOD came out of them!

http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=2323#comic [smbc-comics.com]

First Amendment = chopped liver? (0)

backslashdot (95548) | more than 3 years ago | (#36950528)

You know what, some people gave their LIVES for the first amendment .. and you jerks want to get rid of it because of some ugly crybaby bitch, and yes she IS an ugly crybaby bitch by every definition of the phrase and I'm NOT sorry if that offends.

I can't believe this is happening I'm in total shock. How can there even be such an asinine law? 2005 .. Bush, GOP Congress .. oh, no wonder.

Shouldn't every person who voted for this law, and also the prosecutor who persecuted under it be prosecuted for treason?

Re:First Amendment = chopped liver? (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 3 years ago | (#36950688)

You know what, some people gave their LIVES for the first amendment

And they still do, and will continue to do so. The idea of freedom being a "set it and forget it" feature is BS. It must ALWAYS be defended against evil. Especially the kind of evil conducted under the guise of good intentions.

Re:First Amendment = chopped liver? (1)

todrules (882424) | more than 3 years ago | (#36950962)

"What country before ever existed a century and half without a rebellion? And what country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure." - Thomas Jefferson

Re:First Amendment = chopped liver? (2)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 3 years ago | (#36950792)

I can't believe this is happening I'm in total shock. How can there even be such an asinine law? 2005 .. Bush, GOP Congress .. oh, no wonder.

It should be noted that the first such law in the USA was passed as a State law in..California. Hardly a bastion of the GOP.

Remember, the Dems are the people who get really upset over people hurting other people's feelings. Most Republicans would say "F**k 'em if they can't take a joke", or words to that effect....

Hmm (4, Funny)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 3 years ago | (#36950542)

Your favorite band sucks. Yo mamma so fat. You're stupid, retarded, a pathetic waste of oxygen! You're so--hangon a sec, gotta get the door...

Public figures? (1)

Alex Belits (437) | more than 3 years ago | (#36950554)

I don't understand why public figures are supposed to be protected against any kind of accusations. Their actions are not private, they affect large numbers of people. Interests of those people, and imbalance of power that makes it possible to inflict harm on the population, leave absolutely no reason, other than public interest itself, to protect a public figure from accusations or criticism.

Re:Public figures? (2)

webheaded (997188) | more than 3 years ago | (#36950854)

Because the people making the laws are the ones that don't want anyone to criticize them?

Re:Public figures? (1)

webheaded (997188) | more than 3 years ago | (#36950872)

Because the people making the laws are the same people that don't want anyone to criticize them?

Re:Public figures? (1)

webheaded (997188) | more than 3 years ago | (#36950908)

Ugh, I hate Slashdot's new designs sometimes. I tried posting once and it looked completely screwed up and as if it hadn't been posted twice and then both posts appeared.

People vs. Larry Flynt (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36950580)

Hustler Magazine v. Falwell [wikipedia.org] ... is precedent. This suit is prima facie doomed to fail.

Man Sued for thinking about speaking (1)

sacridias (2322944) | more than 3 years ago | (#36950584)

Today in news we are going to California where a man is on death row for thinking about speaking his mind. The first case backed by the new law protecting people from hearing, seeing or mind reading anything that could offend them. The man was going to compliment a lady on her nice dress when the mental police intercepted his thoughts. In this case the friend walking next to the woman would have hurt feelings as he was not intending to compliment her new hair cut.

I'm Not Surprised... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36950604)

I'm serious. The prosecutors these days are trying to stretch as many laws as they can get away with.

I know that in my state in some criminal case, in order to get an extra charge in, some guy was charged with risk of injury to a minor. All because he swore in front of them. Yes, now saying a swear in front of a kid is risk of injury because it technically falls under corrupting the morals clause. I never heard if that charge ever stuck though. A problem with making vague laws.

The judge should be applying precedent in this case. Even if it doesn't apply directly to this law, it's been established in the past some laws that protect private citizens don't apply to public figures. One could easily justify ruling in favor of the defendant on those grounds.

Bad Laws (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36950762)

I live in France. Here it is perfectly acceptable for a man to stop his car by the side of the road and have a pee over the car tyre.

I'n some US States, that same man would probably be spending the rest of his life on the Sex Offenders list. With Sarah's Law and all that entails, his life would effectively be ruined for obeying the cal of Nature...

It is any reason that the US is being regarded as a laughing stock in many places aound the world yet they carry on as if they were still a Superpower. Bonkers.

Re:Bad Laws (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36951040)

1. Maybe French cars are inside out, but for most cars peeing over the car tire involves peeing on the car. Why would I pee on my own car?

2. You are right, the sex-offender stuff has gotten way out of hand.

3. The reality is we are still a superpower. There will always be a new top dog though -- France was once a superpower (by the way, thank you for helping us kick out the British), and someday the United States will no longer be a superpower. Will that happen sooner rather than later? Who knows.

Truly the act that offended here... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36950622)

...was the actions of the prosecution. I mean seriously, they want to prosecute someone who perhaps said something negative about a public figure?

Hey prosecutor...the world outside of your asshole is a lot different than the view from your bellybutton window. Just FYI...oh, and fuck you and your fucking theory that someone committed a crime here, in case you needed more justification to trample all over my rights.

What's the tweet? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36950666)

Is anybody going to post the tweet, or are you bed-wetting babies too scared your mommy will spank you for using "bad words"?

The politicians are constantly hurting my feelings (1)

fuzzytv (2108482) | more than 3 years ago | (#36950676)

... especially my sense of reality. Can I sue them?

Re:The politicians are constantly hurting my feeli (1)

Shompol (1690084) | more than 3 years ago | (#36950814)

Do they deploy 'any interactive computer service'? It seems they do not! There is no other feasible explanation for creating a new set of laws that is ending with "on computer" clause. They should just declare "war on computers... and any new stuff we don't get", and be done with it.

Re:The politicians are constantly hurting my feeli (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36950964)

Mod parent up!

Can you buy constitution toilet paper? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36950684)

Can you buy constitution toilet paper - outside of congress and the supreme court that is?

More details: (5, Informative)

arnott (789715) | more than 3 years ago | (#36950700)

In February, William Lawrence Cassidy was indicted for interstate stalking, a felony charge. The indictment stated that Cassidy used Twitter to “engage in a course of contact that caused substantial emotional distress” to an unnamed person.

According to court documents, the person was Alyce Zeoli, the leader of a Buddhist organization known as Kunzang Palyul Choling. Cassidy was allegedly a member of KPC before having a falling out with Zeoli, who is known as Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo to KPC members. After the split, he began directing several thousand public Twitter messages toward Zeoli, some of which were threatening, according to prosecutors.

Twitter case [law360.com]

Re:More details: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36950924)

Hmm... If the Supremes have just recently ruled that another person's inflammatory online messages are not unconstitutional, you know, the guy who's case revolved around his thinly veiled online threats against/exhortations for someone to assassinate the President of the United States being protected speech, not sure this law will hold much water now.

I understand the intent of the law. If WLC was bent enough about AZ to post several thousand disparaging comments about AZ online, as alleged in the court documents, perhaps he really needs a forced mental evaluation, along with some strong advisement to chill out and just let it go, before someone gets hurt or does something he will really regret later.

But maybe it's already past that point.

Re:More details: (2)

westlake (615356) | more than 3 years ago | (#36950932)

>>After the split, he began directing several thousand public Twitter messages toward Zeoli, some of which were threatening, according to prosecutors. Several thousand abusive messages. In the American system, the roots of free speech lie in the desire for open and public political debate without fear of government interference. But there has always been the contrarian impulse to keep that debate civilized --- and not to carry it over into a man's private life. Malice is out of bounds. Harassment is out of bounds. "The intentional inflection of emotional distress" is not free speech. This case is not a slam-dunk for the EFF.

Re:More details: (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | more than 3 years ago | (#36951044)

Dialogue and critical thinking are valuable gifts we share as sentient beings. Freedom of belief and freedom of expression are valuable rights we cherish in our democracy. Hatred and violent threats, however, are neither valuable nor right. In recent years, Jetsunma and KPC have been threatened repeatedly and made the target of hateful, homophobic and misogynistic epithets.These threats were reported to law enforcement and, following a full investigation conducted by FBI and U.S. Department of Justice, federal criminal charges were filed in the case of United States v. William Cassidy, 8:11-cr-00091 and he has been charged with cyberstalking.

http://www.tibetanbuddhistaltar.org/2011/06/united-states-v-william-cassidy-811-cr-00091/ [tibetanbuddhistaltar.org]

There is a fine, fine line... it's very difficult to get close to without distorting it. Even if this is the correct course of action in this case, the fact that that course has to be followed spells trouble for the future, where less serious offenses may be attacked in the same way.

I'm with the Buddhists in that hate and violent speech is neither valuable nor right; however, I feel that some protection for expression of these things is valuable. I also feel that continued hate speech can become a threat and cause emotional distress. This means that the right to say something horrible and hateful is important, but also that being too loud about it is harmful. There is a tipping point where it becomes a serious social problem and such individuals must be made to cease their behavior, both because of the emotional harm and because they eventually incite others to hate and violence; finding that point is hard and the very act of acting on such harmful speech actually damages society by making it less tolerant and more likely to act on lesser threats that should be left alone.

A society filled with people who have the courage to speak out against others for their hateful speech has a valuable asset. Standing up for people you don't know who are being attacked for reasons you have no connection to and thus have no vested interest in brings a calm, a feeling of security in community. It binds society together against its own internal threats, and prevents those engaged in hateful speech from binding together hateful and violent gangs. This is also a protected speech that is eroded when the need to deal with hateful speech by force occurs: we lose our freedoms both to do wrong and to stand against the wrong that is done by others.

Remember this when you see problems that aren't any of your business, and when you wonder if you should speak up on things you have no need or vested interest in getting involved with.

Finally the details (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36951298)

several THOUSAND twitter posts... I think we've left criticism behind, somewhere around the 100-200 post mark, even if they weren't threatening.

The real issue here, though, is juristictional. Because of the US's hodge-podge collection of jurisprudence, they need laws for people committing these types of offences across jurisdictional lines. If they had a common juristiction, like any sane country, this wouldn't be an issue, but as the Dukes of Hazard have taught us, there's a giant loophole created just by leaving the county the crimes were committed in.

For the US, there really isn't any other way but to have a law like this, even if it is overbroad, (imagine the two parties trying to decide exactly how many twitter posts constitutes stalking, they can barely agree to not default on their loans).

Dark Future (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36950746)

So let me get this straight. You can be sued for criticism of a public figure, something clearly covered by the 1st Amendment.

I'm sure that if people like this "public figure" had their way it would be a criminal offense, punishable by x years in jail.

On the other hand, actual murderers are being released from overcrowded jails. This is going to start people thinking that instead of using words, they should use a gun. Might end up with a lesser sentence.

Just a thought.

Re:Dark Future (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36951312)

You can be sued for criticism of a public figure, something clearly covered by the 1st Amendment.

Not the way the law is written. (Disclaimer: I Am Not A Lawyer)

"Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress" (IIED) is a Thing (namely, a tort). The bar is set pretty high for what IIED is. Telling someone he's a jerk is not IIED. Sending him a letter informing him that his father has died in an accident might be, depending on the extent of the emotional distress caused. Leaving a load of severed human body parts in someone's bed also might be. The conduct has to be extreme and outrageous for it to be IIED.

Criticizing a public figure in any kind of normal way is not IIED, because it's not extreme and outrageous, and because it's protected under the 1st amendment anyway.

Really? (1)

Ogre-On (696676) | more than 3 years ago | (#36950768)

F... F... S!!!

Trying to find out more about this (2)

Animats (122034) | more than 3 years ago | (#36950780)

This seems to be a feud between some cult and someone who doesn't like the cult. For once, it's not Scientology. It's some offshoot of Buddhism.

One side of the argument can be seen here. [wordpress.com] An old article about William Cassidy [lasvegassun.com] may provide some background.

As far as I can tell from a superficial reading, both sites are nutcases.

In the words of a wise man... (4, Insightful)

idontgno (624372) | more than 3 years ago | (#36950784)

"What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist."
--Salman Rushdie

golly gee willikers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36950794)

we can has sue the interwebz

This explains a lot. (0)

Snarky McButtface (1542357) | more than 3 years ago | (#36950886)

Our leaders are whiny bastards.

Public Figure. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36951088)

It just says "public figure". Who is the public figure? I started skimming through the brief for it and saw nothing and the article doesn't mention who it is.

I'd like to know who gets the criminal justice system involved when someone says mean and nasty things about them and makes them cry.

They'll extend it to cover... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36951022)

...criticism of elected officials.

  "STFU", he explained.

cryin' out loud... (1)

Kozz (7764) | more than 3 years ago | (#36951036)

I know plenty will say that it's not germane to the case itself regarding defense of free speech, but... WTF did this guy say in his "tweet", and about whom?

The real question is (2)

trinite0 (2426808) | more than 3 years ago | (#36951168)

If the victim is a reincarnate master of Tibetan Buddhism, shouldn't she be impervious to emotional distress? (Yes, sometimes it pays to RTFA)

Public figure? (1)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | more than 3 years ago | (#36951234)

I read the EFF filing and the definition of a public figure in this case is a woman who has a verified twitter account with 17,221 followers and who posted videos on a service like Youtube which had 143,000 views. This public figure holds no political office and appears to be outspoken about her religious beliefs.

I noticed that the actual contents of the tweets aren't documented in the EFF filing. As tenuous as their assertion about this involving a public figure, I'd like to see the actual tweets before actually judging the merits of this case. Hell according to EFF, all of the regular slashdot commenters are "public figures".

I know they wanted to assert the public figure definition so they can attempt to use a first amendment argument in this case, but I just don't see it with the evidence being presented.

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