Yes, you read the title right – Arizona House Bill 2549 which passed both of Arizona’s legislative houses on March 29, is set to make trolling people on the internet illegal in the state of Arizona. The bill is an update to state’s telephone harassment law, and under the proposed legislation if a person is found guilty of violating the law, he (or she) will can be slapped with a class 1 misdemeanor, which in Arizona means that you can be fined $2,500 and put in jail for up to six months.
The Bill says that “It is unlawful for any person, with intent to terrify, intimidate, threaten, harass, annoy or offend, to use any electronic or digital device and use any obscene, lewd or profane language or suggest any lewd or lascivious act, or threaten to inflict physical harm to the person or property of any person.” And while we’re not a big fan of cyberbullying or online harassment, the bill sets a dangerous precedent that supporters of similar censorship bills both in the United States and here locally are sure to capitalize on. The bill is currently awaiting approval from Arizona’s governor Janice K. Brewer.
Opponents of the bill say that the wording is too vague and broad and might be twisted to not just include one-on-one correspondence, but public forums like community site Reddit and 4Chan. The bill’s enforcement is also problematic, as it states that the offense only has to occur on Arizona soil.