Dec 172011
 

The New York Times reports on the dismissal of charges against William Lawrence Cassidy, who was being prosecuted under federal anti-stalking law (18 U.S.C §§ 2261A(2)(A)) for posts made about a religious leader on Twitter.  The decision analogized blogs and Twitter with public media available at the time of the drafting of the Bill of Rights:

Suppose that a Colonist erects a bulletin board in the front yard of his home to post announcements that might be of interest to others and other Colonists do the same. A Blog is like a bulletin board, except that it is erected in cyberspace rather than in one’s front yard. If one Colonist wants to see what is on another’s bulletin board, he would need to walk over to his neighbor’s yard and look at what is posted, or hire someone else to do so. Now, one can inspect a neighbor’s Blog by simply turning on a computer.

Twitter allows the bulletin board system to function so that what is posted on Colonist No. 1’s bulletin board is automatically posted on Colonist No. 2’s bulletin board for Colonist No. 2 to see. The automatic postings from one Colonist to another can be turned on or off by the owners of the bulletin boards, but there is no mandatory aspect of postings on one Colonist’s bulletin board showing up on the other’s. It is entirely up to the two Colonists whether their bulletin boards will be interconnected in such a manner.

The court noted that one does not have to walk over and look at another person’s bulletin board; nor
does one Blog or Twitter user have to see what is posted on another person’s Blog or Twitter
account, which made the medium very different than that of a telephone call, letter or e-mail specifically addressed to and directed at another person. This distinction the court concluded was important for the First Amendment analysis, as the prosecution was over protected speech.

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