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Many people that use the internet lie. *gasp* This may come as a shock to a few, but it is the sad truth of the online world. Further complicating matters, there is little that anyone can do to stop it. Rhode Island, who once had a law that imposed a fine for spreading untruths online, just repealed the law. The law, passed in 1989, made lying on the internet a misdemeanor punishable by fines up to $500 and up to a year in jail. Rhode Island ACLU executive director Steven Brown noted that the law “made virtually the entire population of Rhode Island a criminal.”
Fortunately for fibbers, their dishonest ways will no longer land them in legal hot water in Rhode Island. One of the biggest concerns about the law was the first amendment issue. Jonathan Turley, a George Washington University law professor noted that although the Bill of Rights may not explicitly protect your right to lie about your height or weight on your online dating profile, it does protect even “despicable” speech.
Hopefully as society continues to embrace technology and the internet, we can find effective, reasonable methods of operation that do not infringe on the Bill of Rights. Perhaps not like one of China’s social media sites who implements a point system, where people who lie too much get banned from the service. And probably not like New York’s proposed anti-anonymity law.
Hopefully internet users in Rhode Island will sleep a little sounder tonight, knowing that they didn’t spend all day online becoming criminals.
– Brandon Trout
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