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Chilling censorship case in India recalls misguided Arizona cyberbullying legislation

Posted by on December 2, 2012 – 5:00 pm

A young woman’s arrest recently in India over “annoying” Facebook posts is a look into what might have resulted from legislation considered earlier this year by Arizona lawmakers.

As NPR reports, Shaheen Dhada took to Facebook question a citywide shutdown to mourn a thuggish politician. She and her family were harassed and physically attacked, and she was ultimately jailed and forced to apologize in a written statement. The law she was charged with violating was India’s recently enacted Information Technology Act, which prohibits speech that results in  “annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred or ill will.”

It’s unlikely the people who harassed Dhada will face the same persecution she experienced for speaking her mind.

Similarly, a bill under consideration at the Arizona Capitol last session would have outlawed “use of an electronic or digital device to terrify, intimidate, threaten, harass, annoy or offend.” It basically allowed the state to define those terms and would have rendered any criticism in an online forum potentially illegal.

That legislation, allegedly a misguided attempt to combat cyberbullying, was deemed overly broad and thankfully was amended significantly to address constitutional concerns. But only after it garnered Arizona much national attention for what amounts to an intrusion of private affairs in a state controlled by self-styled foes of big government.