PUBLISHED: 17:46 EST, 2 April 2012 | UPDATED: 17:47 EST, 2 April 2012
A bill that passed in the Arizona state legislature could pose a major threat to freedom of speech in the state as it bans anything deemed ‘offensive’ that is published online.
Though it started as an attempt to curb online bullying, opponents see it as a major violation of the First Amendment.
The bill would ‘make unlawful any misuse of electronic or digital devices to terrify, intimidate, threaten, harass, annoy, or offend in the course of stalking.’
Passed: The Arizona state legislature approved the bill on March 29 and it would prevent anyone from writing anything deemed ‘offensive’ on the internet
‘It is unlawful for any person, with intent to terrify, intimidate, threaten, harass, annoy or offend, to use 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.
‘It is also unlawful to otherwise disturb by repeated anonymous electronic or digital communications the peace, quiet or right of privacy of any person at the place where the communications were received.’
The bill, known as House 2549, passed on March 29 and is bound next for the governor’s office.
The New York-based civil liberties activist group called Media Coalition has actively fought against the passage of the bill because, if turned to law, it could criminally prosecute authors of editorials or satirical cartoons that are thought to qualify as offensive.
Next stop: Governor Jan Brewer will be forced to either approve or veto the bill
‘It’s a well-intentioned view and I can see what they have in mind,’ Media Coalition executive director David Horowitz told MailOnline.
‘This is way too broad: it could mean if you’re getting spammed, or annoyed. There’s no requirement that it be repetitive, or that it has to be one-on-one, there’s nothing!’
The group has sent a bevy of letters to Arizona governor Jan Brewer in an attempt to get her to veto the bill before it becomes law.
Supporters: Republicans Ted Vogt (left) and Vic Williams (right) are the main cosponsors but the bill now has bipartisan support
Though it was initially sponsored by two Republicans in the state legislature, the bill now has bi-partisan support and faced little opposition before it was approved.
Other states have had similar propositions, all of which have come in the form of extensions of existing laws against stalking, but they have not passed.
Bullying and the issues surrounding mean Facebook comments and texts have come up in recent months after a number of young children across the country killed themselves.
‘There’s a genuine concern about harassment and bullying both in person and online, and that is a serious topic, but this bill is just far too broad and has no limitations so it infringes on the freedom of speech,’ Mr Horowitz told MailOnline.