Wednesday, March 08, 2006
A new federal law was signed on January 5, 2006 by President Bush. Section 113 of the "Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act" states that when you harass someone on the Internet, you must disclose your identity. Here's the relevant language:
"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."
The law is correct to target abusive Internet behavior that hides behind anonymity. Wikipedia's procedures should be overhauled in light of this new law. Every screen-name signature should always show the originating IP address next to it on Wikipedia, and those who open accounts should provide a verified email address. These addresses should be available to anyone on request (but behind a captcha to keep spambots from harvesting them). This is a minimum requirement for Wikipedia if it ever hopes to restore its good name.
Interesting law, definitely a much needed law. However, I was stunned with one word in particular above: annoy. Isn't that a bit exaggerated? I mean, you send an email to someone and the next thing they do is have their lawyer call you because they were "annoyed?" And with the lovely bunch of humans we have around us, what on Earth is not "annoying" nowadays? This is the petulantly "annoyed at everything" society; the irked and irritated plebs that incessantly complain about every little thing.