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Jail time for trolling

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In the U.K., a man was given an 18 week sentence for "sending a communication of an indecent or offensive nature", when he posted comments on a page set up to mourn someone's death.

Reading this article led me to check out the laws in the U.S.. Here's a page that neatly links to laws across the various states. So, an example from Arizona says:

A. A person commits harassment if, with intent to harass or with knowledge that the person is harassing another person, the person:

1. Anonymously or otherwise contacts, communicates or causes a communication with another person by verbal, electronic, mechanical, telegraphic, telephonic or written means in a manner that harasses.

Typically, these laws aren't just about the internet. They're part of laws saying (for instance) that following a person around in a public place, with no legitimate purpose, and after being told to desist, is harassment.

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  • 2 weeks later...
Do you agree with this idea?
I don't know enough about the specific laws. Many of them are laws that deal with threatening behavior. If properly defined, threatening behavior should be illegal. However, these laws also address behavior that is non-threatening. In general I don't think non-threatening communication should be illegal. However, a few of the laws speak to communication that takes place after the sender has been told to desist. I'm open to the idea of a law that supports the right of the owner of a web page (for instance) to tell some other person not to post to his page.
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What would be the distinction between "threatening" and "non-threatening"?

I need clarification about what you're asking here.

  • Do you mean in a communication like a letter or email?
  • Or do you mean a threat in the "physical world"?

Whichever one you mean, which of these two aspects are you asking about:

  • are you asking how one would go about defining it legally and objectively,
  • or are you saying that you cannot imagine any other human being actually doing saying something to you or acting in some way toward you where you would be fearful for your safety?

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Proud father,

While reading this, please note that the term "you" is not directed at you personally. It is the hypothetical "you" (any man). I am using it as a catalyst. I find it less confusing to use "you and another man", then "a man and another man" or "a man and a women," or a "first party and a second party." The use of "you" is not an attmpet to insult you or be unkind to you, or accuse you of thinking a certain way.The distinction between threatening and non-threatening is a difficult thing to determine. What is threatening to one, is non-threatening to another.

If a man criticizes an idea you have, it is valid for you to say that you feel threatened because your idea is being threatened.

If your idea is a component that forms your identity, then it is logical to say that your identity is being threatend.

If your identity is a component of your being, then it is logical to say that you are being attacked.

Therefore, you can conclude that a person who is criticizing your idea, is directly threatening you.

What are the implications and consequences of condemning a man for threatening your ideas, by intellectually opposing them?

If you have ever criticized another idea, then you are as "guilty" as the man you condemn and therefore just as desserving of being condemned yourself? We would have to condemn all of humanity for this. We would all have to lock ourselves up.

So it seems that some forms of threatening behavior must acceptible, in order for men to be free.

Here is the critical similarity between you and the man. The man who is criticizing your actions or ideas, may be taking the offense against your identity, but he is simultaneously defending his own identity because, chances are, he finds your ideas to be threatening to his own...therefore you are both on equal ground. The man feels threatened by an action you made or an idea you have and he expresses why (Thus he is expressing his own ideas for one cannot criticize another without expressing his own ideas), and as a result you feel threatened by the man.

Here is the critical difference, to threaten to lock a man up for his criticism of you on the grounds that you feel threatened, is indeed a threat against the man. He may have threatened your ideas and thus your identity by challenging your ideas, but you are threatening his ideas, his identity and his over-all freedom. So who is threatening who the most? He has challenged your ideas, but he has not threatened your physical being, where as you are threatening all of the above. You are the only one making a physical threat in a circumstance like this.

Is anger a threatening emotion? If one gets angry at you and curses at you, is he threatening you, or is he simply angry with you? Perhaps it is something you said or did that angered him. If he expresses that anger by saying. "I dislike you and here is why....." is that threatening to you? Indeed it is because he is intellectually attacking and challenging your actions or ideas. It is your actions or ideas that anger the man. Actions are often the result of an idea, so both these things are components of your identity, therefore the man is threatening your identity once again. But if the man is angered by something your said or did, chances are, he feels threatened by your actions or ideas, therefore you are both threatening eachother. The man cannot criticize your ideas without expressing his own ideas and, chances are, he is angry because he has found your actions or ideas threatening to his own. If he says, "if you try to lock me up, I will fight you." His threat is a result of yours. The critical similarity between your threats is that both are conditional. The critical difference between your threats is, your threat is conditional on whether or no he is silent, but his threat his conditional on whether or not you lock him up for his refusal to obey your physical command. Perhaps you then should be locked up for your threat, seeing as how it was the first physical threat that caused the argument to decline into the exchange of physical threats.

Physically, following some one around in public can also be considered chasing some one. This is an interesting subject and one that is hard to come to a concrete conclusion on. What do you think?

Edited by TrueMaterialist
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What do you think?
As such, attacking a person's ideas and identity should not be illegal. So, I agree completely there.

Attacking a person's body or his property (e.g. stabbing him or burning down his house) ought to be illegal. So the real question is: what about threats relating to such attacks?

The case of trolling on a website owned by someone, after they have instructed you to desist actually goes beyond a threat of an attack, it is actual attack on the person's property.

Edited by softwareNerd
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Proud Father, (in response to your last post to me).

Sorry, I do not know how to use the quote function on this website, so I have to quote you manually.

Could you enlighten me on how to use the quote function?

"As such, attacking a person's ideas and identity should not be illegal. So, I agree completely there."

I am assuming by saying "as such," you mean that you agree with my argument. We share a reasonable outlook my friend, but perhaps my argument was somewhat out of scope, though it does pertain to the confusion between "threatening and non-threatening."

We do, however, agree that many forms of attacks and many forms of threatening behavior should be exempt from prosecution...and should not be seen as a matter of law.

We agree on the following:

Not a Matter of Law

1. Attacking a person's ideas.

2. Attacking a person's identity

3. Threatening a persons ideas.

4. Threatening a persons identity.

Since we agree that these should not illegal, we must also agree that a person should not be arrested for committing such acts.

"Attacking a person's body or his property (e.g. stabbing him or burning down his house) ought to be illegal."

I am in agreement.

We agree on the following:

A Matter of Law

1. Attacking a person's body

2. Attacking a person's property

3. Threatening to attack a person's body.

4. Threatening to attack a person's property

Since we agree that these should be illegal, we must, at least, agree that a person must face some type of legal consequences for these acts.

"So the real question is: what about threats relating to such attacks?"

This is the hard part.

There are at least two types of property:

1.Physical Property

2.Intellectual Property

If we confuse the two, we are at risk of contradicting our conclusion that "attacking a person's ideas and identity should not be illegal."

Intellectual property is defined as: Property that derives from the work of an individual's mind or intellect.

This means that intellectual property is, at least, all of the following:

1. Ideas

2. The way an idea is expressed

3.The medium in which on uses to express that idea

4. Art work in all its forms

These things must exist in some form a physical state...because that is only way one can prove that he created them.

So intellectual property must be physical property.

If a man plagiarizes, however, he is transcribing ideas from another's physical intellectual property to his own physical property (pens and paper, for example).

This means that the actual owner of that physical intellectual property did two things:

1. He thought of his idea, or his art.

2. He transformed that idea, or art, into a physical form

This means: at first, the idea, or art, was not physical, but then the idea, or art, was made into something physical.

The thief of that plagiarizes or copies an idea or work of art does three things.

1. He observes the idea or art work.

2. He turns it back into to something non-physical.

3. Then turns it back into something physical again, by regurgitating that information.

Therefore intellectual property is both physical intellectual property and non-physical intellectual property.

It is:

1.the medium in which one chooses to express his ideas

2.the actual idea

3.and way in which he chooses to express his idea.

Intellectual property must be in physical form (recorded or made physical), in order to prove that the artist, writer, scientist, etc, thought of or discovered those things first, but this is only for the purpose of proof. The fact that something is not recorded, or made physical, however, is not proof that the artist did not think of it first.

For example, if a singer at a bar sings a song he made up in his mind, but memorized the words and never wrote them down...and never recorded them as being created at a certain time....and someone else records that song on a cell-phone...and later sings the song and creates it as his own, that person has stolen the original artist's intellectual property, whether it can be proven or not.

So, an idea must be both non-physical intellectual property and physical intellectual property, simultaneously.

Just as a singer sings a song he memorizes, a man in a vocal argument conveys an idea he has formulated before the argument took place.

This means: that just as the singers song is his intellectual property, the arguers idea is his intellectual property.

So, if I criticize an idea posed by a man, I am attacking his personal property. Criticizing the man's idea is an attempt to prove that idea is meaningless. It is an attempt to bring doubt to that idea...in the mind of the man it came from and in the minds of those who have heard his idea....thus I am attempting to destroy his idea.

A man's identity is also a man's intellectual property because it is how he personally defines himself.

Thus, if we agree that "attacking a person's ideas and identity should not be illegal," we must also agree that attacking and attempting to destroy, or destroying, certain types of property should not illegal as well."

So now we must come to this conclusion:

It should be legal to threaten, attack and attempt to destroy, or destroy a man's intellectual property, but it should be illegal to threaten, attack, attempt to destroy, or destroy a man's physical property.

It would then be okay to attack a man's intellectual property, so long as it is not in physical form, meaning I cannot rip up an album you own, but I can attack or destroy the idea contained in that album.

"The case of trolling on a website owned by someone, after they have instructed you to desist actually goes beyond a threat of an attack, it is actual attack on the person's property."

Trolling on a website is only possible when that web site is a forum, or contains a forum.

If we agree that one's ideas and expressions of those ideas are his personal intellectual property, then we must conclude that the forum itself is the sum of many people's intellectual property. Without the contribution of other's, a forum is not a forum because no one posts and no one comments.

Thus, since the content itself is a sum of the intellectual property of others, it is logical to say that the site is made up of various people's personal property. It cannot be considered private property unless the contributor's sell their intellectual property, or agree to give that property away.

Remember, we agreed that we can attack and attempt to destroy, or destroy intellectual property in a non physical form, but we did not agree that we can claim other people's intellectual property as our own private property...because that would be theft.

The intellectual property on a forum has been manifested from nonphysical intellectual property into physical intellectual property because it is, in itself. recorded proof that it exists. Thus, if it is physical property of the contributor, it should illegal to destroy or claim as personal property. It is also illegal to deny the person who made it access to that property.

One does however have the right to attack the ideas in a post...because by doing so, they are not attacking the post itself, just the idea contained within it.

Even a troll does not destroy the website itself, nor does he destroy the physical contributions made by others, though he might destroy the ideas contained within it, but even a man with the some ideas, yet a different interpretation of them can be considered a troll. The difficulty is proving his intent. He may just disagree.

This post for example, I wrote with no goal, or self interest, no intent to hurt, or offend. I was simply answering the questions and responding to the information logically and reasonably. I do not manipulate logic to fit a presupposed conclusion, I use logic to come to my conclusion. In this context, this is the only logical conclusion.

But I have said enough. I will respond if you show an interest, or have an argument regarding this post. If not, talk to you later.

Have a good night, or day. LOL. Have a good whatever, depending on when you read this.

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I need clarification about what you're asking here.

  • Do you mean in a communication like a letter or email?
  • Or do you mean a threat in the "physical world"?

Whichever one you mean, which of these two aspects are you asking about:

  • are you asking how one would go about defining it legally and objectively,
  • or are you saying that you cannot imagine any other human being actually doing saying something to you or acting in some way toward you where you would be fearful for your safety?

Sorry it took me so long to get back to you softwareNerd.I mean "threatening" in any sense, and your response sort of demonstrates what prompted my question. How would one go about properly defining it legally and objectively? I can certainly imagine someone doing something, saying something, or acting in a particular way toward me that would cause me to fear for my safety, but I can't be certain those same actions or words (whether written or spoken) are objectively threatening to all.
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