State lawmakers gave final approval Monday to legislation designed to update stalking statutes — but not before removing language that had alarmed some free speech advocates.
The version of HB 2549 going to Gov. Jan Brewer makes it a crime to use an electronic communication to terrify, intimidate, threaten or harass a specific person or persons. That replaces existing laws which mention only the use of a telephone, language that prosecutors said failed to keep up with technology.
But legislators narrowed what had been the original definition which would have included messages posted on Facebook pages and even Twitter posts. Instead, it covers only telephones, whether wired or wireless, as well as text messages, instant messages, and electronic mail.
Potentially more significant, the final version of the bill no longer includes language which would also have made it a crime to annoy or offend anyone. And lawmakers added verbiage spelling out that nothing in the law applies to “constitutionally protected speech or activity,” or any other activity specifically authorized by law.