Annoying someone online becomes federal crime

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Tuesday, January 10, 2006

President Bush signed legislation last Thursday that disallows the posting or e-mailing of messages intended to annoy people without having included your true identity. The law, Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act of 2005, contained this as a rider. The relevant portion of the law is as follows:

"Whoever...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...who receives the communications...shall be fined under title 18 or imprisoned not more than two years, or both."

Clinton Fein, owner of Annoy.com [1] which allows people to send anonymous annoying messages, reported to CNET that "I'm certainly not going to close the site down. I would fight it on First Amendment grounds." Previous Supreme Court precedent does allow for anonymous, written annoyance.

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