The great majority of the comments on Martinez Patch are thoughtful, informed, constructive, courteous. But like any lively online town square, the occasional bit of vitriol stains the conversation.
Patch editors take care to maintain civil and vibrant discussion with warnings, suspensions and in very rare instances, closing the accounts of repeat offenders. Unlike our corporate cousins at the Huffington Post, we don’t use computer algorithms to filter comments. We spend a lot of time thinking about how to manage online conversation. That’s why a bill in the Arizona State Legislature that would make annoying or offensive online comments a crime caught our attention.
The bill’s author says his legislation protects the victims of online harassment and stalking. Opponents claim that terms like “offensive” and “annoying” are too broad and that the law would violate the First Amendment. The legislator behind the proposed law said Wednesday he would amend it to address the concerns of free speech advocates.
What do you think? Is this an area where lawmakers should be directing their energies? Tell us in the comments. And please try not to be offensive or annoying.