Ten years ago, it turns out, one of my law review articles discussed the problem with applying telephone harassment laws (or even harassment laws that govern one-to-one annoying e-mail) to one-to-many speech. That article pointed out that e-mail harassment laws might punish one-to-many speech posted to e-mail discussion lists; but the analysis equally applies to the recently enacted change to the federal harassment law, which would punish one-to-many speech posted on Web sites.
The bottom line is that, even if it's OK to punish speech that's likely to be annoying and offensive to its sole listener -- on the theory that such speech is unlikely to enlighten or edify, and likely only to annoy -- such restrictions shouldn't be extended to speech that has many listeners, many of whom might find the speech valuable even though it's annoying (perhaps deliberately so) to some other listeners.
Related Posts (on one page):
- New Law Prohibiting Annoying Anonymous Speech Online:
- More on One-to-One Speech vs. One-to-Many Speech:
- Annoying Anonymous Speech Online:
- A Skeptical Look at "Create an E-annoyance, Go to Jail":