Thursday, September 20, 2012

Twitter harassment not only about free speech

Twitter has made some reassuring noises to the DBCDE and the AFP, so The Daily Telegraph is trumpeting a win in its “stop the trolls” campaign. Yippee.

However, this paragraph in the Joe Hildebrand story caught my attention:

Using a carriage service such as Twitter to harass someone is illegal under Australian law but, because Twitter operates under US law, it can be complicated.

I’m going to politely disagree with this remark posted by Geordie Guy:

“It’s not complicated at all.  Being a jerk is a constitutionally protected civil right under the first amendment to the United States constitution.  What’s complicated is when you try to export laws to the United States that conflict with that.”

My question back at Geordie is this: “Would Section 474.17 of the Criminal Code Act support an extradition request made against a US citizen?”

I’m not a lawyer, but America has a similar law to Section 474.17 in its “Communications Decency Act”. So both Australia and America recognize some kind of “use telecoms to harass” laws. Something which might be a crime in both countries might also sustain extradition.

Australian police would need to associate a profile with an individual, which may be difficult, and would need a case that was so notorious they thought it worth pursuing the long process of discovery in the US courts, before even kicking off extradition. So I guess we're unlikely to see mass international arrests as an outcome for Tweets.

If a known individual, wanted for investigation, turned up in Australia, that individual would of course be subject to the Australian law.

PS. I know, Twitter isn’t a “carriage service”. However, the individual sending the message on Twitter can be “using a carriage service” (the underlying Internet connection) to “menace or harass”. Hildebrand’s error is palpable, but not particularly significant.

PPS. I pretty much agree with the rest of Mr Guy's post.

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