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Rep. Linda Sanchez assaults free speech sensibilities

October 17th, 2009 · 22 Comments

For the past few months, I have been aware of the cyberbullying bill introduced by Representative Linda Sanchez, which basically amounts to a trampling of first amendment rights. The bill is also known as the Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act, named for a girl who committed suicide after receiving a series of horrendous messages were directed towards her on MySpace.

The part of the bill that is particularly troubling is this:

`Sec. 881. Cyberbullying

`(a) Whoever transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication, with the intent to coerce, intimidate, harass, or cause substantial emotional distress to a person, using electronic means to support severe, repeated, and hostile behavior, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.

`(b) As used in this section–

`(1) the term `communication’ means the electronic transmission, between or among points specified by the user, of information of the user’s choosing, without change in the form or content of the information as sent and received; and

`(2) the term `electronic means’ means any equipment dependent on electrical power to access an information service, including email, instant messaging, blogs, websites, telephones, and text messages.’.

(b) Clerical Amendment- The table of sections at the beginning of chapter 41 of title 18, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following new item:

`881. Cyberbullying.’.

How can anyone determine if electronic communication or perhaps even criticism on a blog or public message board has been written with the intention to coerce, intimidate, harass, or cause emotional distress? Just this week, we saw Meghan McCain, daughter of Senator John McCain, post a somewhat provocative picture on her Twitter account, and then become disturbed by the reactions that it caused. Could the written electronic reactions or even the posting of the picture cause emotional distress to McCain or those who clicked on the picture?

I believe that Rep. Linda Sanchez has good intentions with this bill, meaning that she seeks to protect young people from hurtful speech and harassment, but this isn’t the way to go about it. We have endured 8 years of limits on our civil liberties with the Patriot Act, and in my view, we don’t need additional restrictions on our fundamental rights. We need a return to civility and better parenting to prevent the kind of attacks that Megan Meier endured. And you can’t legislate those basic concepts.

Rep. Sanchez has said, “I believe we can protect our right to free speech and victims of cyber-bullying at the same time.”  I don’t think we can do that with the law Sanchez has proposed. 

The “intent to coerce, intimidate, harass, or cause substantial emotional distress to a person, using electronic means to support severe, repeated, and hostile behavior” clause of this bill is particularly troubling for political bloggers or any blogger who seeks to influence public opinion or a public official. For instance, this blog has a lot of posts about Rep. Linda Sanchez’s sister, Loretta, which hopefully will influence the elder Sanchez to become a more acountable public official. But in some mind, could these posts and subsequent comments be construed as causing emotional distress to Loretta Sanchez? Perhaps, given this bill’s parameters.

Finally, our prisons are already overcrowded. I would hate to see cyberbullying suits clog up our courts, especially when kids and adults can learn to avoid or address the “bullying.” As this piece in Wired states, “Sanchez’s bill goes way beyond cyberbullying and comes close to making it a federal offense to log onto the internet or use the telephone. The methods of communication where hostile speech is banned include e-mail, instant messaging, blogs, websites, telephones and text messages.” This law’s reach is plainly excessive.

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Tags: Rep. Linda Sanchez · Rep. Loretta Sanchez

22 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Alamar Fernandez // Oct 17, 2009 at 7:30 pm

    I am appalled by this, especially coming from, a Hispanic woman.
    Has she no experience with the time in our history , when we were not allowed to speak Spanish in School and other Gov’t Places? As in Texas in the 40′s, 50′, 60′s.
    I believe this may just be a mistake from a generational stand point. If you have not walked in the shoes, you have no first hand knowledge. I believe in FREE SPEECH…even for the Cooky Right Wing.
    My motto is: WHAT YOU THINK OF ME IS NONE OF MY BUSINESS. WHAT YOU DO TO ME, NOW THAT IS MY BUSINESS, AND YOU WILL HEAR FROM ME.”
    It is a Self-Esteem Issue. You can not legislate Self-Esteem Awareness.
    I hope that Ms Sanchez will have her eyes opened, by someone with the ability to talk some common sense to her.

  • 2 Anna // Oct 17, 2009 at 8:30 pm

    I agree. This is a ridiculous bill. Tell your representatives not to support it.

  • 3 Reyfeo // Oct 18, 2009 at 9:59 am

    This is the Democrats attempt to shut down the Rush Limbaugh’s of this world…they hate conservative talk radio (blogging) and all that comes with it (again, like blogging). NObama is getting his feelings too hurt and so they are out to protect him.

    What they fail to see is it’s a two sided sword…What cuts Conservatives will cut and hurt Liberals (and websites like these)…I am NOT in favor of this bill either. But hey, she’s one of yours, you talk some sense into a Democrat, you won’t get far…!

  • 4 theKaiser // Oct 18, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    Linda Sanchez’s involvement in this bill is personal. She wants to prosecute bloggers and other critics of her limited and somewhat inept Congressional performance. This reflects her definition of public service, and the idea that she serves at the pleasure of Linda Sanchez.

  • 5 Michael "Mayor Sam" Higby // Oct 18, 2009 at 6:23 pm

    Excellent post.

    Doesn’t surprise me one of the Sanchez sisters is up to nonsense again. Absolutely those who bully others online should be held accountable but existing laws can suffice.

    This is just another effort to extend the reach of government into our private lives. And it will be used to go after free speech particularly on blogs!

  • 6 jammer // Oct 19, 2009 at 11:54 am

    I like it better when the sisters Sanchez are out satisfying their sexual urges…, it keeps them out of their offices where their thought processes are bound to get them and us in trouble. This bill is an attempt by the sisters Sanchez to silence their critics whose numbers grow each day.

  • 7 BettyM // Oct 19, 2009 at 2:19 pm

    The wording in this bill is causing me substantial emotional distress…

  • 8 El Cholo // Oct 20, 2009 at 2:43 pm

    More self-serving legislation from the Sanchez sisters, and they don’t produce much legislation to begin with. However with this piece of legislation, it looks like Linda Sanchez is attempting to protect herself from being criticized by the very people she supposedly represents in Congress. Voters she completely ignores while she’s off living large on the taxpayer’s dime. What is the definition of public service to these two corrupt civil servants? Maybe their biography should have been titled, “Dreaming in Black and White: How the Sanchez Sisters are robbing the American public.”

  • 9 DoctorH // Oct 21, 2009 at 1:24 pm

    This is more typical small-minded, selfish, mean-spirited legislation from a civil servant with no concept of public service. No one here should be surprised. The depth of Linda Sanchez’s public awareness of the public good is just a tad higher than her flea-brained sister Loretta. And Loretta’s public awareness visual is right at the gutter.

  • 10 Anna // Oct 21, 2009 at 7:04 pm

    I am opposed to this bill, but you should know that it has nothing to do with silencing critics of Congress. Political speech is protected.

    To Jammer: Why the sexist comments? Is it even possible for a female politician to be criticized without sexism entering into it? I am so sick of it…

  • 11 webmaster // Oct 21, 2009 at 9:52 pm

    Anna,

    I don’t know how you construe Jammer’s comment as sexist per se. The same could be written about someone like Bill Clinton and his sexual urges or any other male politician with a reputation for extracurricular whoring.

    We know that one Sanchez sister likes to play up her sexuality and put it on display, and there is ample evidence of this.

  • 12 Anna // Oct 22, 2009 at 9:24 am

    No, there isn’t, and how can compare either of them to Bill Clinton who was in a sex scandal with an intern is mind boggling. What’s scary is that you don’t even see how sexist his comments are because sexism is so ingrained in our culture.

    It feels like women are losing ground. During the democratic primary we saw virulent sexism on the airwaves, and very few women complained. I can’t turn on the TV without seeing a story of some woman who has been attacked or killed by her husband or boyfriend. Women at two universities have recently been killed/attacked. Hollywood, including Whoopi Goldberg and Debra Winger, rallied around a director who is a rapist and a fugitive. Goldberg said that the rape of a 13 year old wasn’t “rape-rape.” WTF? And there was no outcry. She still has her job on The View.

    If Hillary had won maybe there would have been a resurgence of feminism. But now it seems like there is another backlash.

  • 13 El Cholo // Oct 23, 2009 at 11:42 am

    Anna: Political speech is protected…

    How do you define written criticism of a public servant as political speech? Are you quoting an Alan Dershowitz legal brief? Then again Dershowitz wouldn’t say something so legally vague. Political speech delivered by politicians in a political context is protected by theory, but it can be easily reinterpreted by any substandard attorney in a under financed law firm. Or are you just babbling again out of the side of your mouth?

    Linda Sanchez is really attempting to position herself in an Ivory tower here with this Orwellian attempt to prosecute and jail her critics. Or is that too difficult for you to grasp?

  • 14 Anna // Oct 23, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    Take a first amendment class. This law does not apply to bloggers who are criticizing members of Congress.

  • 15 El Cholo // Oct 23, 2009 at 6:29 pm

    Bloggers aren’t mentioned specifically in the U.S. Constitution. And not everything taught in school is correct and factual. People, corporations, and other entities spend millions of dollars reinterpreting the first amendment and arguing about it all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court. This is what makes you such an ugly person. You love shouting so many lies.

  • 16 Paulette // Oct 23, 2009 at 7:23 pm

    This is the best use of Sanchez’s time?

  • 17 WhatThe.. // Oct 24, 2009 at 3:53 pm

    Sounds like the dumbing down of our State Representives. Another good reason why the job of State Representives should be part time, they have to much time on their hands, and many of them lack a real spine enough to engage in real issues such as the corruption of unions raping the State of California etc.

  • 18 Anna // Oct 24, 2009 at 6:17 pm

    She’s a US Congresswoman, not a state representative.

    As for making the CA legislature part time, that’s another dumb Republican idea designed to strip the voters of power. They want to concentrate power in the Governor because it’s easier to buy off one person than it is to control the whole legislature.

  • 19 WhatThe.. // Oct 26, 2009 at 5:34 pm

    Unfortunately, Anna, the voters have no power anymore. The real power is in the lobbyist and unions and the CA legislature are the puppits for those entities. For a part time legislature, I’m neither Republican or Democrat, and feel that the CA legislature should meet solely on important issues of the people and to help mitigate the DemoRepublican corruption that exist between unions and lobbyist. As for the Governor we all know he really has no power and is just a lame duck, the power exist in our corrupt state legislature via the directions of the unions and lobbyist.

  • 20 Anna // Oct 26, 2009 at 7:54 pm

    A part time legislature might work in a small state like Vermont, but not in a state like CA. I wish we had some political bosses like the Irish had in the 19th century where they would just round up the Irish immigrants and tell them how to vote.

    Too many Latinos are uninformed and voting for morons like Arnold. This part time legislature is an awful idea, and will only make things worse.

  • 21 The Invisible War of Military Women | Warta Dunia // Jan 28, 2012 at 6:24 pm

    [...] The film highlights several dedicated members of Congress, Rep. Jackie Speier(D-Calif.) and Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.), who are working to pass legislation to fix some of the structural problems in [...]

  • 22 The Invisible War of Military Women | The Election Review // Feb 2, 2012 at 5:12 pm

    [...] The film highlights several dedicated members of Congress, Rep. Jackie Speier(D-Calif.) and Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.), who are working to pass legislation to fix some of the structural problems in [...]

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