Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, April 04, 2012
 
Never underestimate Arizona

When I predicted last week that legislators would step in against cyber-bullying, I wasn't counting on Arizona being THAT fast. Arizona House Bill 2549 just passed and only needs the Governors signature to become law. It says:
"It is unlawful for any person, with intent to terrify, intimidate, threaten, harass, annoy or offend, to use ANY ELECTRONIC OR DIGITAL DEVICE and use any obscene, lewd or profane language or suggest any lewd or lascivious act, or threaten to inflict physical harm to the person or property of any person."
Basically if he lived in Arizona, The Mittani would be looking at a minimum sentence of two and a half years in jail, for a "non-dangerous offender with no previous record", with the maximum sentence being 25 years.

Of course the bill is probably going to be shot down somewhere in court for being overly broad and being in conflict with the first amendment in the stated form. But that is an iterative process: Legislator proposes too broad law, courts intervene, law gets restricted to a more narrow form. There are existing laws that make bullying illegal, there is no reason why a wording couldn't be found to make cyber-bullying illegal too. And just like there are laws that force employers to provide a harassment-free environment, game companies one day will be forced to provide a harassment-free virtual world environment.

Comments:
What I never understand with bills like these is their necessity. How is cyber-bullying any different than normal bullying, legally? It would seem more beneficial to make the medium of harassment transparent to the law and attack the behaviour itself.
 
Your country is getting increasingly scary.
 
Your country is getting increasingly scary.

Huh? I'm European, not American.
 
I expect that one to get struck down as unconstitutional pretty damn quick. Preventing people from trying to "terrify, intimidate, threaten [or] harass" others would have been a perfectly good definition to combat bullying. Adding the words "annoy or offend" means this can be used to prosecute anything someone disagrees with as long as it contains any "obscene, lewd or profane language" (pretty much the entire internet). That looks like a pretty clear infringement on the right to free speech if you can be jailed for years for saying "Obama is a faggot"...
 
Again, my comment is the same: bullying can only happen against a person and not a game character. PvPing in a PvP game is not bully and can't be made one without making the offline PvP games, the sports bully.
 
"And just like there are laws that force employers to provide a harassment-free environment, game companies one day will be forced to provide a harassment-free virtual world environment."

No. There's a very big difference between a voluntary, elective activity like playing an online game and activities like attending school or work. Anti-bullying laws, like self-defense laws, are generally targetted at situations where the victim cannot reasonably retreat.
 
How exactly would you "terrify, intimidate, threaten, harass, annoy or offend" a game character without terrifying, intimidating, threatening, or harassing the person playing that game character?

My interpretation is that game activities like shooting another player's space ship down are perfectly okay. Just like it is perfectly okay in a work environment to upset somebody by refusing his project request or giving him a bad evaluation in a performance review. Game activities in a game will probably be considered as legal as work activities in a work environment, regardless how upsetting that can be sometimes.

But if you at your work place conspire with your fellow workers to harass and bully a colleague you know has problems, with the expressly stated goal of "let's see if we can get him to off himself", you could get into legal trouble. And the same principle would apply to virtual environments as well.
 
The whole Killer Bartle type by definition is aimed at interfering with the experience of other players. These players simply do not enjoy gameplay where no one cares what they do.

Are we going to see an entire Bartle type outlawed?
 
"Basically if he lived in Arizona, The Mittani would be looking at a minimum sentence of two and a half years in jail, for a "non-dangerous offender with no previous record", with the maximum sentence being 25 years."

No, since the person that the Mittani referred to didn't even take offense in the whole thing. He (The Wis or however his name is) roleplayed the suicidal to get his ingame money back, which - sad as it is - worked. The out-of-game comments were inappropriate, yes - so what? There were NO real life names mentioned, NO threats against the Wis' wife, life, dog, house or car. Unlike against Mittani's wife, who by the will of some Anti-Eve commenters should be raped. Where is the outcry about that?

I really can't see why there still is so much fuzz about this story. People get told to off themselves, die in a fire or put various blunt-shaped objects in their rears all the time in any online game with more than 2 players.

Also: If this Arizona law came to pass I couldn't tell the spiritgeared Warrior that he is a idiot because that would "annoy or offend" him?
 
I really can't see why there still is so much fuzz about this story. People get told to off themselves, die in a fire or put various blunt-shaped objects in their rears all the time in any online game with more than 2 players.

Just because something happens 'all the time' doesn't mean it _should_ happen. Frankly, the fact that it does happen all the time is all the more reason I hope something like this does pass into law. Playing a game like League of Legends with random teammates can be a very frustrating experience sometimes with the amount of hate and vitriol spewed out by some of the player base. I for one want that to change. It would be nice if it would change because people were able to respect each other but I'll accept people just being afraid of prison instead.
 
Part of that law would be ruled unconsitutional based on the 1st Amendment. The SCOTUS has ruled that free speech includes offensive speech.
 
Hilarious they legislate cyber bullying but not you know, the real thing.

Getting upset or depressed over forum trolls is retarded when you can simply choose not to visit that site...

You can't just decide to not go to school though.
 
Funnily enough Tobold, this law as written wouldn't affect the mittani
 
I am American and in fact grew up in Arizona. That state has a history of passing bizarre, unpopular and overreaching laws (the immigration law being the most recent), as well as electing governors that love publicity.

However, the paragraph you quoted in no way supports your conclusions IMO.

The law sounds like a no brainer, and merely assures that a harasser isn't protected by a "it was just a text message" defense.

How does it address harassment through a virtual in-game character?
 
How is the "it was just an avatar" defense any different from the "it was just a text message" defense?
 
As "Games" grow, their interaction with RL does as well.

http://wow.joystiq.com/2012/04/05/operation-game-over-bans-sex-offenders-from-online-games-in-new/

a/k/a NY state wants to join in the MMO regulation fun.
 
How is the "it was just an avatar" defense any different from the "it was just a text message" defense?

It's quite different. One is just clarifying that communication in any form can constitute harassment.

Harassment in game, especially a "role playing game" is more justifiable, since on some level that's what we're supposed to be doing. I'm not harassing "you", I'm harassing your sword/light saber/spaceship wielding avatar. And we're playing "roles". And we are both there, paying to play, signed the TOS, which implies consent.

Mittens could certainly claim that he didn't realize that the real person behind the avatar was suicidal, just the avatar. And that he was merely advocating harassing game characters, which is part of the game.
 
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