Member of Congress defends speech-ban bill

Although the proposed Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act would criminalize a wide range of online speech that leads to emotional distress, Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) says we should rest assured that judges in their discretion will apply it only to nasties who are bothering our children — except that the bill is in no way limited to that type of speech. Eugene Volokh dissects (earlier here and here).


  • Oh, yes. Let’s give our judges some more unfettered discretion in deciding who that law should apply to. Or maybe or our legislatures should stop passing so many laws.

  • Here’s the quote from Rep. Sanchez: “Congress has no interest in censoring speech and it will not do so if it passes this bill. Put simply, this legislation would be used as a tool for a judge and jury to determine whether there is significant evidence to prove that a person “cyberbullied” another. That is: did they have the required intent, did they use electronic means of communication, and was the communication severe, hostile, and repeated. So — bloggers, emailers, texters, spiteful exes, and those who have blogged against this bill have no fear – your words are still protected under the same American values.”

    Is she serious? Judges don’t decide whether to file suit, lawyers do. And as we have seen, lawyers already harass bloggers whose words their clients don’t care for even without this. Fix up your law Rep. Sanchez.

  • Its called “passing the buck”.

  • So there’s nothing to worry about. You write a blog post critical about someone (say your ex-wife) and she complains to the authorities about it, you have nothing to worry about. And when the authorities decide to charge you under this law, and you get described in your local newspaper as a cyberbully and as an abuser of women, you have nothing to worry about. And after waiting months or maybe a year or two for your trial to come up, and after getting fired from your job because your employer doesn’t want the bad publicity, and after spending tens of thousands of dollars in lawyers fees, you have nothing to worry about. And when it finally comes to trial, and you find that the jury has been stacked with the kind of people who don’t really care about what the law says but are full of compassion for the alleged victim, you have nothing to worry about. And when you’re finally acquitted because the judge is old-fashioned enough to still believe in the quaint concept of the first amendment, then the law has worked properly and you had nothing to worry about.

    Nope, this law doesn’t pose any free-speech problems at all, not a one.

  • En Media Res…mean while in the Longworth building the following discussion takes place outside of the ears of constituents and responsible media:
    Harvard 3L staffer intern: But ma’am, the courts will shut this down before President Obama’s ink is dry, my ConLaw prof says so.
    Rep. Sanchez: Silly intern, this isn’t for real, how stupid do you think I am? I got 2,451 calls about Facebook bullies last month. If I don’t look like I’m doing something about it my career is finished and there goes the House.
    HLS3L: Oh, I see, it’s an appearance things…I get it now…I’ll draft a press release, back in ten minutes…I sure am glad I got to work for you.
    Rep. Sanchez: You go do that, and let the speaker know I need to borrow her jet to fly some friends…err…constituents out to Vegas for an urgent meeting.

  • […] Sanchez to combat “cyberbullying” by throttling online speech [Jacob Sullum; earlier here, […]