Social media posts that embarrass or insult someone would be illegal under bills covering online harassment being pushed by Rhode Island Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin.
Kilmartin is pushing one bill which aims to criminalise “revenge porn,” or sexual images posted online without the consent of anyone featured. This is a reasonable bill that many would agree is necessary, but it is being used as a smokescreen to the other bill which Kilmartin is currently trying to push through.
The other bill aims to protect people who “feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed, or molested” online, and treats unwanted internet communication like unconsented sex where an ‘offender’ could be prosecuted for “separate non-continuous acts of unconsented contact” with a “reasonable person.”
“In the new age of the Internet and social media, once a harassing statement, image or video is posted online it can be there forever,” said Kilmartin, blissfully ambiguous as to what he counts as ‘harassing’. “In addition, other persons may respond to or repost the harassing statement, image or video, which would continue to harass and seriously harm the victim. Unfortunately, the current law provides no protection to victims of this type of harassment as such behavior is not be considered a ‘course of conduct.'”
The bill is sponsored by both Senator Frank Lombardi and Representative Kathleen Fogarty, but the American Civil Liberties Union in Rhode Island is opposed to Kilmartin’s advancements.
“Someone could be arrested for re-tweeting a photo sent to them,” claims Hillary Davis, a policy associate at the American Civil Liberties Union. “The problem is you can’t always be responsible for the actions of other people and shouldn’t go to jail for their actions. If someone takes something and twists it around, should you be responsible?”
Convictions under Kilmartin’s bill would be punishable by a $1,000 fine, or up to a year in prison.
Charlie Nash is a frequent contributor to Breitbart Tech and former editor of the Squid Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter @MrNashington.