This has been the year for internet legislation in the Hawaii legislature. First there was the terrible HB 2288 that would require complete records of all personal internet activity to be kept for two years. This bill has been deferred, and is hopefully dead, after active opposition in the press, social media and pressure from internet service providers. The measure received nationwide media attention, overwhelmingly negative attention, when it was first proposed.
The current focus of attention is on SB2104, which attempts to address online harassment. The bill defines electronic harassment as follows…
(g) Makes any form of electronic communication, as defined in section 711-1111(2), including electronic mail transmissions, that is directed at a specific person and causes emotional distress to that person and serves no legitimate purpose. SB2104 as of 10Jan2011
Other island bloggers have posted on this measure. Interestingly with opposite takes on the issue. Tiffany has come out in wholehearted support of SB2104, while Damon has come out in opposition, citing free speech issues.
I usually side with free speech, even in the face of offensive speech. I am particularly sensitive to anything that threatens our use of electronic communications, a tool that is increasingly important in our society. It is the net that has facilitated true social opposition and organization to counterbalance the abuse of governmental or corporate economic power. It was the stunningly rapid response on social websites and blogs that halted the SOPA and PIPA legislation in the US Congress. A clear example of the power available to our communities through these new media.
With that in mind I have some real problems with the language on this one. I can all to easily imagine this sort of legislation being used to stifle legitimate comment and opinion. While I applaud the intention, to limit cyberbullying, I am not sure if this can be addressed like this without impinging on freedom of speech.