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Trolling in Arizona could get you 25 years in jail

Being anonymous on the internet can have its ups and downs. In the eyes of some people the ups outweigh the downs, since they can get away with saying things they would never say in the real world. Probably the best case in point for that argument is a popular YouTube video. It doesn't matter what video in particular, because there will always be a trolling comment if it has over 1,000,000 views. Consider the amount of trolls who use profane language when they are messing with others via the internet.

Arizona doesn't like this. In fact, as Gizmodo reports, they really don't like this. Some radical, sweeping reforms are in the pipeline for the state's telecommunications harassment bill, and these could actually make trolling a Class 1 misdemeanor: as in, you could be punished with a fine of up to $250,000 and six months in prison. All for one comment. The bill, known as Arizona House Bill 2549, passed legislation last Thursday. A Class 1 misdemeanor is the most aggressive misdemeanor offence the state can consider. All it takes now is the approval of Arizona's governor, Jan Brewer. Here's the excerpt which concerns the internet:

"It is unlawful for any person, with intent to terrify, intimidate, threaten, harass, annoy or offend, to use a 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."

That's right. If someone makes a "your mom" joke at you when playing on Xbox LIVE, and they happen to be from Arizona, you can completely dictate the flow of their life from then onwards. Oh, and if you happen to stalk a victim, it becomes a Class 3 felony. The minimum time for a Class 3 felony is 2.5 years imprisonment, even if you have nothing else on your record. Maximum? You're looking at 25 years in jail - and a smart lawyer could easily argue joining someone in a game and trolling is enough. The bill is worded just broadly enough to include one-to-one interaction, as well as publicly accessible websites, such as Reddit.

The offence only has to take place on Arizona's soil for it to be a crime in Arizona. Considering a Facebook comment can be accessed globally, they could well decide you're coming for a visit to the state because of a Facebook status speaking about someone else, or using profane language. There's a good chance this law might not go through, but you'd have to be insane to even consider trying to get it signed in the first place. Let us not forget that Arizona is the state which also was considering racial profiling, anti-gay adoption, and bills against immigration. All that's needed to stop the bill is Brewer refusing to sign it.

At the time of writing, you're still legally obliged to leave your thoughts on Governor Brewer's official Facebook page. Just be careful what you say, and how you say it. It's still legal at the moment to swear on a free medium like the internet but if Arizona has it their way, it might not be for much longer.

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