Groklaw Explains Spammer Case First Amendment Issues

Rikki Endsley

ROSE Blog: Rikki's Open Source Exchange

Sep 15, 2008 GMT
Rikki Kite

A little less than a year ago, I interviewed Pamela Jones about anonymity online and First Amendment issues. The interview turned into a research paper for my First Amendment class and ultimately ended up as part of my thesis.

Another First Amendment class assignment was a debate in which one two-member team had to present the side of the defense in a recent First Amendment case, and another team argued that the case didn't infringe on the defendant's right to free speech. Then the class voted on which team made the stronger argument.

My team was assigned a case against Fred Phelps (or as my professor called him, our state wart) and his right to protest outside funerals of soldiers. My teammate and I had to defend Phelps, and I wasn't happy about it at first. After doing the research, though, I had a better appreciation for how important it is to protect everyone's right to free speech – even if we hate what they are saying – because by doing so, we are really protecting our own rights. (And, I'm happy to say, my team won that debate.)

This morning, I noticed that Groklaw offers an easy-to-understand breakdown of First Amendment issues with the Virginia anti-spam law, which ultimately helped a spammer avoid jail time. The bad news is that the spammer walks. The good news is that the Virginia anti-spam law can be re-written so that it doesn't violate anyone's right to free speech.


  • Excellent post

    Rikki, You've done a great job setting up the issue here. Nice post!
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