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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Blog Control Acts: Don't Chill Speech; Let Courts Decide

Update: South Dakota Public Broadcasting features a discussion of the Blog Control Acts on Dakota Midday today at noon Central, 11 Mountain!

The more I read from Rep. Noel Hamiel about his Blog Control Acts, the less I think he understands what his own bills would do. He tells SDPB's Cory Klumper that neither HB 1277 nor HB 1278 infringes on free speech. But they do: the bills impose new legal and technical obligations on bloggers and other Internet users that make it more difficult to engage in online expression. That's infringement.

Perhaps counsel will advise Rep. Hamiel to defend his bills by pleading, "Yeah, but do you have a better plan?"

Actually, yes: let the courts handle it under current law:

“While [the proposed legislation] may not be totally unreasonable, I do think it does have a tendency to restrict the flow of information and ideas and the exchange of those, and that’s critical,” says [Sioux Falls attorney John] Arneson. “Not everything we hear is going to be good, but if we were to start closing doors and windows on all that we do hear and say and what we want to hear and say I think we’d be much worse off.”

Arneson says the state would be better off if courts decide on individual cases [Cory Klumper, "House Bills Address Anonymous Libel on the Internet," SDPB.org, 2010.02.09].


  1. Hamiel is wrong. Suppose King George required all pamphleteers reveal the full names of all content contributors or would seize and smash the presses and seize assets of the printer. It is self-evident how such prior restraint would stifle free expression, dissent, and free speech. It is no accident the framers put freedom of speech as First of ten in the Bill of Rights.

    Hamiel's bill and insistence reveal how little he knows of US history, the history of the Fourth Estate, and the rights of sovereign people to redress their government. It would be useful if there were a "tenured" journalism or history professor who found the moral courage to stand up for what they profess and take on this monstrosity - rather than treat their public stewardship like a mere job.
    John Kelley

  2. I did not hear all of Midday today, but one side seemed conspicuously absent: Bloggers and Forum moderators.

    Also absent in what I heard was a single example of anything on any South Dakota blog that would generate any need for such legislation. That doesn't mean there aren't any, just that I have yet to hear of a good example.

    Also absent is the technology that Nancy Turbak? says ought to be available to make their legislation work. Perhaps the legislators should be aware of such before they start writing legislation on the assumption the technology must exist or be brought into existence to meet requirements of their law.

  3. Darn right, Doug! If they were proposing new regulations on feedlots, the press would probably include a big beef producer in the discussion. I'm suprised they didn't have Pat or Todd on to represent us folks who would be most directly impacted by the proposed legislation.


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