January 09, 2006

DECLAN MCCULLAGH: "Last Thursday, President Bush signed into law a prohibition on posting annoying Web messages or sending annoying e-mail messages without disclosing your true identity. . . . This ridiculous prohibition, which would likely imperil much of Usenet, is buried in the so-called Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act. Criminal penalties include stiff fines and two years in prison." Based on Declan's description, this seems absurd, and almost certainly unconstitutional, to me. (And where does it fit within the federal government's enumerated powers?) Naturally, we have Arlen Specter to thank for it.

UPDATE: Kaimi Wenger says that Declan has misread the statute. There's some interesting discussion in the comments.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Orin Kerr, posting at 1:12 A.M., parses the statute and informs us that Declan is wrong. "It looks funny if you don't know the relevant caselaw, but in practice it simply takes the telephone harassment statute we've had for decades and applies it to the Internet." It's aimed at VOIP, apparently.