SB 46, “Internet Libel/Civil Crim Offense"
Apparently one North Carolina General Assembly member feels like he’s been mistreated by new media and subsequently, that bloggers are a threat to civil discourse in our state. The honor this week for “Bad Bill of the Week” goes to Sen. Steve Goss (D-Watauga) and his bill, SB 46, “Internet Libel/Civil Crim Offense.” I like to call it: “The Gossip Girl Bill,” in honor of the pop-culture television show centered around gossipy high school students who post scandalous anonymous rumors on a public blog. Apparently Sen. Goss thinks using this medium is a threat to our state.
The negative public reaction to Sen. Goss’ bill was so universal that left-wing and right-wing groups denounced it equally. Basically, SB 46 would treat blogs and electronic communications under different libel and slander criteria from print or news media. It would criminalize and allow lawsuits to be brought against any Web site, blog, forum or newsgroup that posted allegedly false information. So, for example, I hopped on Facebook and posted a comment that John Doe likes to eat broccoli, when in fact, Doe has a severe aversion to broccoli. That means, under this filed bill, I could be arrested and charged with a class 2 misdemeanor and Doe could sue me for slander. Sen. Goss later said he thought the inclusion of criminal penalties in the bill was “a mistake.” But saying that doesn’t let him off the hook.
Sen. Goss also said that this new law is needed because “blogs are out of control.” And who’s control might that be senator, yours or the government’s? Apparently Sen. Goss believes freedom of speech and the 1st Amendment needs to be restricted.
With our court system over capacity, probationers committing murders and case backlogs at an all-time high, Sen. Goss wants to clog our court system with civil complaints because someone doesn’t like what someone else posted about them on a random message board.
What exactly is Sen. Goss talking about when he says: “bloggers are a threat to civil discourse in our state”? Obviously he doesn’t understand that bloggers are just people expressing their opinion. No different than when Thomas Payne published his pamphlets about the tyranny of the King of England. Open expression of ideas and pointing out what’s wrong with our government is what made and makes this country work. It keeps those whom we have elected in check. The only difference between a blog and a conversation between two people is it’s exposure. So what next does Mr. Goss suggest? That we bug everyone’s home and make sure they’re not saying “bad things” about our government? It’s time those like Mr. Goss and others in government pull back and stop trying to stomp all over our rights. This isn’t Orwell’s 1984 and we still have, and WILL keep the right to say what’s on our mind. Be it in private or on a blog. And if the truth hurts, too bad. So I say ” HANDS OFF the first amendment” and that goes for any other expressed opinion that Mr. Goss might disagree with!