Utah state representative David Lifferth has written a bill that, if passed, would make it punishable by law to post his name, likeness, and love for yeti selfies on the Internet. (credit: David Lifferth)
A bill proposed in the Utah State House of Representatives on Monday would update and amend passages in the state’s criminal code regarding “offenses committed by means of electronic or computer functions.” However, in attempting to address the issue of “doxing”—meaning, publishing personally identifying information on the Internet as a way to harass or attack someone—the bill’s language may consequently target free online speech.
Utah HB 255, titled “Cybercrime Amendments,” counts State Representative David E. Lifferth as its lead sponsor, and it includes amendments that would penalize denial-of-service attacks and false emergency reports at specific locations (i.e. swatting). Utah state criminal code already punishes certain kinds of electronic communications “with intent to annoy, alarm, intimidate, offend, abuse, threaten, harass, frighten, or disrupt the electronic communications of another,” and HB 255 would append that specific passage to count the act of “distributing personal identifying information” as actionable, should that be done with any of the aforementioned intent.
“This bill as drafted is clearly unconstitutional,” Electronic Frontier Foundation Staff Attorney Nate Cardozo said to Ars Technica in a phone interview. “There may be anti-doxing legislation out there which does make sense, but this bill creates a crime if you, with the intent to annoy, publish someone else’s name. If I want to say [online], ‘Sam is a poo-poo head,’ that’s a crime under this draft.”
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