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Violence Against Women's Act Flawed Legislation

The Violence Against Women Act was reauthorized on January 5. While there is obviously a need for this type of legislation there are two sections in this bill that seriously infringe on our privacy and civil rights and should be addressed. Title X which increase FBI DNA collection abilities and the "Preventing Cyberstalking" section which by being overly broad and open to interpretation could end up having a chilling effect on free speech on blogs and other Internet postings.
Amidst all the controversy this White House has been engaged in the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act on January 5 should have been a simple matter or doing the right thing for a change. However, the law added two problematic provisions. One of these provisions may turn out to be greatly challenging in the future, having a chilling affect on how we interact on the web.

First, Title X of the bill allows law enforcement to collect the DNA of anyone arrested and store the DNA in a federal database. It’s worse if you aren’t a US citizen. In that case, DNA may be collected and stored any time they are detained under U.S. authority. This significantly expands the number of people catalogued by the FBI's database, as previously the law only allowed the collection of DNA from people convicted, indicted, or charged with crimes.

The other bad legislation in this bill is the "Preventing Cyberstalking," portion of the act. It was intended to expand an anti- telephone harassment law by applying it to Internet communications to block technology based loopholes like voice-over-IP. The law originally prohibited calling someone anonymously "with the intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass" someone. The new provision prohibits anonymously contacting someone over the Internet with the intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass him or her. If read broadly, the new law could criminalize web pages or blogs that criticize, ridicule, satirize, or otherwise "annoy" someone. Declan McCullagh, of C/Net News has a FAQ on this issue.

The Violence Against Women Act is a good law and it was important for it to be reauthorized. These two sections should be challenged and corrected or removed from the act. In one case we are giving away our privacy in the form of our DNA and the other we are giving up our first amendment freedom of speech.
Created by lsmithlas
Last modified February 02, 2006 09:16 AM

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