An Arizona bill being touted as an anti-bullying effort has people across the nation up in arms. The "internet censorship bill" would make it a crime for someone to be "offensive" online. While it has good intentions it's so broad, online editorials, illustrations, even your Facebook status updates aren't safe.
Distasteful content on the internet is not a new thing.
"A lot of the times you'll see rants and raves on Facebook," said Salt Lake resident Neil Hooper.
Then, there are website comment sections where people type less than kind words.
"I think it's really sad that people even have the time to make comments like that, it's like they're trying to make themselves feel better or something," said Salt Lake resident Stacee Madsen.
But, no matter how mean or rude that type of behavior is not illegal. Some Arizona lawmakers created House Bill 2549 to change that, which criminally punishes offensive online content.
"I think the legislature in Arizona is saying there's got to be a way we can put a cap on things and outlaw this and keep people from doing that," said Utah attorney Greg Skordas.
The bill would make it a crime to offend, harass, terrify or even just annoy another person online. Skordas points out a few issues, like how will law enforcement find these so-called "online trolls?" and who is going to set the basis for what is considered "offensive?"
"For one, it's vague, using words like offensive or annoying, who's to define those kinds of words?" Skordas asked.
Finally, the big issue, a person's first amendment right. Lewd web posters may not be kind, but Utahans say they have a right to speak their mind, whether we like what they say it or not.
"I think it's interesting because there are a lot people who hide behind their virtual or social networking persona, but I think everyone had the right to say what they want,” Hooper said.
Of course this bill is not in Utah, but residents we spoke with fear our state won't be far behind. However, Skordas points out you just can't ignore the fact that there are a lot of holes in this bill. Even if someone's charged, Skordas says the case would likely be thrown out in court.