TLP: That's What "Unfollow" Is For
It's not surprising that the government doesn't want you to be Facebooking, tweeting or sending dirty BBMs on your cell phone while you're behind the wheel — while disregarding whatever other specific sorts of distractions might make you a shitty driver — but in some places, what you tweet could put you in jail. Good thing there are a few "activist" judges around.
In a case with potentially far-reaching consequences for freedom of expression on the Internet, a federal judge on Thursday dismissed a criminal case against a man accused of stalking a religious leader on Twitter, saying that the Constitution protects “uncomfortable” speech on such bulletin-boardlike sites.What I like best about this ruling is that, in a case about the Internets, the judge got all Colonial on the prosecution's ass. He talked about the importance of anonymity in documents such as the Federalist papers and then worked himself into a scene out of "You Are There."
The government had accused the defendant, William Lawrence Cassidy, of harassing and causing “substantial emotional distress” to a Buddhist religious leader named Alyce Zeoli. He had posted thousands of messages about her, some predicting her violent death. He lived in California, she in Maryland.
In his 27-page order, Judge Roger W. Titus wrote that “while Mr. Cassidy’s speech may have inflicted substantial emotional distress, the government’s indictment here is directed squarely at protected speech: anonymous, uncomfortable Internet speech addressing religious matters.”
Suppose that a Colonist erects a bulletin board in the front yard of his home to post announcements that might be of interest to others and other Colonists do the same. A Blog is like a bulletin board, except that it is erected in cyberspace rather than in one's front yard. If one Colonist wants to see what is on another's bulletin board, he would need to walk over to his neighbor's yard and look at what is posted, or hire someone else to do so. Now, one can inspect a neighbor's Blog by simply turning on a computer.There's other stuff in the ruling about how the courts said it was cool for Hustler magazine to bust on Jerry Falwell because the ability to insult people (even with f-bombs!) provides "breathing space" for First Amendment freedoms.
The law being what it is and all, it took the judge 27 pages to say what ought to be said to a lot of people who complain — about movies, teevee, music, websites or Twitter feeds they don't like — turn it the fuck off!