Technology has always been a force to be reckoned with. The speed of the internet, personal computers, mobile phones, and other technological advancements continue to develop at lightning speed. While society remains stuck in the infancy of these technological developments, we are still stuck with the old communication methods that were not only ineffective but also sometimes dangerous. As a result, people who are caught unawares by these new technologies can be severely impacted, emotionally. It is for this reason that governments have been implementing laws that seek to protect citizens from abusive and harmful technology.
One of the first laws passed to protect against the abuse of technology as a form of communication was passed way back in the 1970s. This law, known as the “scienter law” sought to protect individuals from the misuse of scientific information. The concept behind this law was to prevent individuals from wasting time and resources in pursuit of frivolous ideas. In essence, this meant that people were prevented from coming up with unimportant but flimsy technological innovations.
The problem with this law was that there were many people who used this law to their advantage. Those with a strong belief that the discovery of a new technological item was crucial to humankind abused the ruling to shut down debate and criticism. While it is possible to criticize a technological innovation, it is much more difficult to do so without using the argument that the product was detrimental to humankind as a whole. Thus, those who made the concession to their own fringe always received the benefit of the argument.
As a result, this form of law was rarely enforced. Instead, those who made criticisms of technology received the benefit of deference. However, with the rise of eBook readers and other technological improvements, this deference could no longer be afforded. It is for this reason that the Stop Online Harassment Act was introduced in the United States in 2021. This law seeks to criminalize anyone who sends harassing messages over the Internet. The legislation is designed to put an end to all of the unsavory behavior that takes place on the Internet.
The Stop Online Harassment Act is similar to the First Amendment protection that many Americans have enjoyed for decades. Unlike the previous laws, however, those who send abusive messages will not be prosecuted under this legislation. This is because the Internet has grown to the point where its users expect such protection. What this means is that those who wish to express their unpopular opinions will not be legally penalized.
In addition to providing protection from those wishing to abuse free speech on the Internet, the Stop Online Harassment Act also aims to protect the privacy of countless numbers of Americans. The Internet is one of the most popular ways for individuals to pursue long lost loved ones. Unfortunately, many stalkers choose to meet their victims online, and then proceed to abuse them through private communication channels. By making this act a legal crime, the Internet will be able to remain a place of safety and privacy for all citizens.
Unfortunately, the Stop Online Harassment Act has been criticized by many different individuals and groups. These individuals and groups claim that there is not enough proof proving that the same type of harassment occurs offline. This is simply not true. The problem lies in how the current laws are written, rather than any other element of technology. If more proof was needed, the courts should have never allowed gag orders to exist in the first place, and they have, but the problem has been fixed.
It is unfortunate that such an unnecessarily harsh law like the one in place is needed in the first place. Technology has helped bring people together from all corners of the world, and it has allowed for communication to take place in a completely new way. This form of communication should always be protected and not allowed to cause unwarranted fear amongst millions of Americans. This new technology has truly made the world a smaller place, and we would be losing this aspect of our culture if we did not fight against the misuse of technology in our society. The Stop Online Harassment Act is just one step in that direction, and we need more individuals like Hayden Panettiere to speak out and to fight for these rights.