C-Net has reported that a provision in the Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act would make it illegal to send anonymous e-mail or post anonymously on discussion forums…
"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."
Most recognize that cyber-bullying and harassment can be a problem, especially in a school setting. Physical size and strength are no longer as important, so those that might have been bullied in real life might themselves become bullies online in an attempt to eleviate their frustrations.
Not all that want to remain anonymous are bullies. I post to several online forums, and I like to retain anonymity for several reasons. First, I’ve had the experience of someone taking issue with something I said, then sending me a constant barrage of e-mail my home account. Secondly, it’s simply not safe to divulge everything to complete strangers. While anonymity might shield those that intend harm, it also protects those that want to stay out of harm’s way.
Unfortunately, the word "annoy" makes the law much too broad. What may be annoying to some may be harmless to others. Some might be annoyed that I support Democratic causes. Sometimes I might make a comment out of the blue to stir the pot and stimulate discussion, which will often tick someone off. Does that mean that someone could press charges based on this new law?
I personally don’t think I’m going to change my habits one whit. I really don’t think that the new law will stand up to First Amendment scrutiny. However, the Bill of Rights doesn’t seem to mean much to the current administration.