Archive for the ‘news’ Category

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.

I don’t want this to become a political blog, but I’ve been thinking a lot today about the response to the shooting in Arizona. Once I heard about it, I knew people would rush to shift the blame around, or to deflect it from themselves. We can talk all we want about how the current political climate may or may not have fostered this, but we just don’t know what inspired this, and it was thankfully an isolated incident. Some people have directly blamed some well known political commentators/figures for their rhetoric, some of which uses violent metaphors. While I do think that using violent metaphors in political discourse (“be armed and ready to fight against ____”, “target ____”, etc. are very much a negative thing for America, there isn’t really any evidence yet that the guy who did this was directly inspired by Glenn Beck/Sarah Palin/Michelle Bachmann or any of the other names I’ve heard thrown out there. What we do know about this guy suggests that his political influences were far more fringe than any of these. I’m not a fan of Beck, Palin, nor Bachmann, and all three of them have made statements that terrify me, but a key difference is that none of them want to completely dismantle the United States society as it is. This seems like the kind of guy who would.

If I were a parent of the 9 year old child who was shot today, I would be upset that an incident that took my child’s life was turning into nothing more than political ammunition. People can find anything to attack; for right now, can we just let the families who lost their loved ones mourn in peace?