Ohio Law Criminalizes “abusing, threatening, or harassing…” Speech

Yeah, good luck with that. But wait, there’s more! Guess who is exempt?

Ohio Rev. Code § 2917.21 provides:

(B)(2) No person shall knowingly post a text or audio statement or an image on an internet web site or web page for the purpose of abusing, threatening, or harassing another person. …

(F) Divisions (A)(5) to (11) and (B)(2) of this section do not apply to a person who, while employed or contracted by a newspaper, magazine, press association, news agency, news wire service, cable channel or cable operator, or radio or television station, is gathering, processing. transmitting, compiling, editing, or disseminating information for the general public within the scope of the person’s employment in that capacity or the person’s contractual authority in that capacity.

So if you say anything online about anyone — from the president on down — you could be criminally punished, so long as a prosecutor and jury conclude that your motive was “abusing” or “harassing” someone. 

Forget the obvious: how can you determine if something is published for the purpose of abusing, threatening, or harassing? Put that aside for a moment.

Look who is exempted. The professional class of news men and women. This is clearly a step toward outlawing speech from we amateur keyboard jockeys in our pajamas.

[True fact, I blog fully dressed, but sometimes read other blogs in my PJs. – Dave.]

This is a big deal. This is a virtual license for those who are a part of the legacy media. They are protected, and they will likely ignore this law as a result.

Exempt from this law.


Volokh is not ignoring it. From the legal motion he and his team filed:

Unlike laws which merely protect unwilling listeners, Section 2917.21(B)(2) criminalizes public commentary about particular people, and thus prohibits far more than the dissemination of speech to people unwilling to hear it.


No, it doesn’t. Words don’t do that. 




Yeah, this sort of law pretty much shuts down the internet, since the traditional liberal notion is that “if you offend me, then you are abusing, threatening and harassing me…”  We cannot go around criminalizing writing simply because it “causes” emotional upset in the subject.

Good on Volokh and the others for bringing this to our attention, and for fighting it in the courts. 




This entry was posted in Free Speech, Media, Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Ohio Law Criminalizes “abusing, threatening, or harassing…” Speech

  1. onwyrdsdream says:

    Anyone here in Ohio who wants to start a press association with free lifetime membership simply by sending in your name?

    Liked by 2 people

  2. wjjhoge says:

    Of course, the law violates a Supreme Court decision … wait for it …

    Brandeburg v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444 (1969).

    Liked by 3 people

  3. wjjhoge says:

    Oops, the should be Brandenburg.


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