Remember the Idaho legislator who wanted to outlaw anonymous blogging?
The good news is, Representative Steve Hartgen, R-Twin Falls, no longer is trying to outlaw anonymous blogging. According to Jared Hopkins in the Magic Valley Times- News, Hartgen told the Idaho House State Affairs Committee that he had dropped that effort because too many people made fun of him. "After receiving many thoughts and submissions on that I decided not to introduce that," he said. "I think people blogged about that almost everywhere from between Maine to Hawaii."
Instead, Hartgen now proposes extending existing telephone harassment laws to cover online communication including e-mails, text messages and posting comments on Web sites. This is in response to the Megan Meier case, where Lori Drew’s impersonation of a teenage boy led Meier to kill herself. Repeat offenders could face five years in prison
Because this is one-on-one communication, and because it extends existing harassment laws, it would not impinge on people’s First Amendment protections of free speech, said Hartgen, a former newspaper publisher, though some people posting comments on Idaho newspaper web sites don’t buy this argument. In addition, public officials would still be “fair game,” he told the Times-News.
The amusing part of this story was apparently watching a bunch of Idaho 60-somethings try to decide how to describe such sites. Originally Hartgen’s bill had listed Facebook, MySpace, and so on by name, but some legislators were concerned about calling them out specifically. However, they didn’t know what to call them generically until Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa – who’s 34 and on Facebook – explained to the committee they were called “social networking sites.”
The State Affairs committee agreed to hear the bill; at this point, it goes back to the committee, which will hear public testimony on it. If it passes the committee, it will go to the House for voting, then to the Senate State Affairs committee for more public testimony, then if it passes there, to the Senate, and then to the Governor if it passes all those hurdles before the Legislature's typical session end of early April.