Ban trolling on online memorials?

Posted: January 17, 2011 in news

A Kansas woman has proposed legislation to make it against the law to post disparaging comments on Internet memorials for the recently deceased. While she admits that there may be First Amendment issues associated with this, she hopes that there might be a “way around” them. The idea of desecrating the dead is similar to the issue of Fred Phelps’s protesting at soldier funerals, which has also prompted some legislation which is currently going through the court system to determine whether it violates the First Amendment.

It goes without saying that I think that anybody who would troll on such websites is a low life with serious issues, but I nonetheless can’t support such a law. It seems blatantly unconstitutional, and goes against both the letter and spirit of the First Amendment. The Bill of Rights wasn’t written with exceptions in mind. There are also questions – what constitutes “disparaging”? If somebody posts a joking comment about a close friend or relative that, if taken literally, could be taken the wrong way, are they violating a federal law?

Also, this seems like using a bazooka to kill a fly. I would think that it would be much easier to increase moderation of such sites so that such comments are removed quickly, or technology could be used to flag suspicious looking comments and subject them to site approval before posting. Altogether, I don’t think this is a necessary law to pass.

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