Bush makes anonymous flaming a crime

: “President Bush has made it a crime to post annoying Web messages or sending annoying e-mail messages without disclosing your true identity.

The law is buried in the Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act. Criminal penalties include stiff fines and two years in prison.
Under the wording you are allowed to flame someone if you use your real name. But there are also a few problems with the wording.

The law makes it illegal for anyone who: ‘utilizes any device or software that can be used to originate telecommunications or other types of communications that are transmitted, in whole or in part, by the Internet… without disclosing his identity and with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass any person.’ So getting a good conviction is dependant on people agreeing on what is the meaning of the word annoying.

The law is designed to prevent cyberstalking, but having a look on Usenet, I think this one is going to make for some very interesting court cases, if it is possible to enforce.”

Hurrah! Time to look forward to thousands of spurious court cases and more message boards and chat rooms closing down in fear of legal reprisals! After all, some cases have shown that unless a host, site or even sometimes ISP, can properly protect all users from illegal activity, they may in fact be complicit.

And due to the fact that the net is international and your servers might end up being in the US, you can’t just ignore this legislation just because you’re not American.

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