Oregon Representative Janelle Bynum's Attack on Free Speech

Blast Zone No. 35516 - 2 Comments
Set Up On:
Category: Other - Politicians
Last Known Home Address:
Original Draft of HB 3047:

Janelle Bynum of the Oregon House of Representatives won a great victory in the fight for police reform this past week. She is the chief sponsor of House Bills 2513, 2936, 3059, and 3273. All of those bills are great. We believe that those bills will lead to better hiring practices by law enforcement agencies and that those hired will be held to higher standards. So, if we are so happy with her work why are we posting her personal information? We are posting her information because while she was doing those things she was also working to undermine our First Amendment rights by sponsoring House Bill 3047. HB 3047 will likely create a civil cause of action for people in Oregon courts against anyone that posts certain types of accurate information about them on CopBlaster.com. HB 3047 is an unconstitutional attack on our rights that we will not tolerate under any circumstances regardless of other things its supports have done lately.

HB 3047 states that a plaintiff will have grounds to file a lawsuit for "improper disclosure of private information" if that person can show that the information was disclosed "with the intent to stalk, harass or injure the plaintiff." That does not sound unconstitutional on its face, but once the surface is scratched it reveals one of the worst attempts to silence speech that we have seen. The statue defines "harass" in a way that goes far beyond the legal definition of harassment under the state's criminal code (https://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/166.065). Under HB 3047 the term "harass" will include "severe emotional distress such that the individual experiences anxiety, fear, torment or apprehension that may or may not result in a physical manifestation of severe emotional distress or a mental health diagnosis and is protracted rather than merely trivial or transitory." That definition is so vague that it could cover any number of things regardless of whether or not the speech in question is protected by the First Amendment. It goes without saying that the First Amendment never protects speech intended to threaten bodily harm or incite criminal activity, but HB 3047 is not narrowly tailored to limit causes of action to just incidents involving unconstitutional speech such as true threats. People have a First Amendment right to disclose information about a person with the intent of causing them anxiety, fear of consequences other than being the victim of a crime, and apprehension of such things. The term "sever emotional distress" is subjective and opens doors for anyone claiming to have experienced severe anxiety. There is a reasonable person standard, so that could provide ammunition for defendants in cases where plaintiffs cry rivers of fake tears, but it is still vulnerable to the subjective opinions of jurors based on how severe they would consider the conduct if subject to it rather than remaining detached and objective.

The state itself is almost always the initial discloser of information targeted by HB 3047. HB 3047 describes "personal information" as "The plaintiffs home address, personal email address, personal phone number or social security number." We have no objection to the prohibition on posting social security numbers because of identity theft risk, but federal courts have objected under certain circumstances. In 2010, the Fourth Circuit ruled in favor of a website that criticized pubic records laws in Virginia by posting public land records obtained from the state that contained social security numbers of state legislators, see Ostergren v. Cuccinelli, 615 F.3d 263 (https://casetext.com/case/ostergren-v-cuccinelli). The court concluded that "Virginia's failure to redact SSNs before placing land records online means that barring Ostergren's protected speech would not be narrowly tailored to Virginia's interest in protecting individual privacy." Virginia's Personal Information Privacy Act was overly broad because it did not distinguish between protected speech and privacy violations. The same is true of HB 3047 when it comes to home addresses, personal email addresses, and personal phone numbers. The state discloses that information in public records that are then aggregated by public records brokers and made available online. We were able to obtain Janelle Bynum's home address from such a broker. In our last post we covered the case law that supports our position that posting home addresses of government officials online to protest their actions is free speech and the state cannot punish people for disseminating information that the state itself made public (see https://copblaster.com/blast/35515/representative-bill-post-championed-unconstitutional-bill). HB 3047 "is not narrowly tailored for the additional reason that it does not differentiate between acts that make public previously private information and those that make public information that is already publicly available. " See Publius v. Boyer-Vine (https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/USCOURTS-caed-1_16-cv-01152/pdf/USCOURTS-caed-1_16-cv-01152-2.pdf).

Bynum's unconstitutional intentions can be found in the first draft of HB 3047 which included " with the intent to harass, humiliate or injure." Later drafts replaced the word "humiliate" with "stalk" for an obvious reason. The First Amendment protects the right to post accurate information on the internet for the purpose of humiliating people. The word humiliate is so broad that most ordinary reasonable Americans would read the law and think of the First Amendment. Humiliate means "to reduce (someone) to a lower position in one's own eyes or others' eyes : to make (someone) ashamed or embarrassed" (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/humiliate). People can be humiliated in any number of ways protected by the First Amendment for which personal information plays a role. Someone obviously told Bynum and Witt (https://copblaster.com/blast/35514/representative-brad-witt-thinks-he-can-violate-the-first-amendment) that the original draft of the bill would not survive a First Amendment challenge. As a result, they replaced the word "humiliate" with the word "stalk" and created a new definition of "harass" which attempts to redefine the meaning of the word. Merriam-Webster defines "harass" as "to annoy persistently." The First Amendment protects the right to annoy another person persistently if the cause of that annoyance is public criticism.

HB 3047 defines personal email addresses and employer contact information as personal information. How could the disclosure of an email address subject a reasonable person to severe emotional distress such that the individual experiences anxiety, fear, torment or apprehension? Will they be worried that bots will find it and bombard them with spam? Will they experience fear and apprehension at the prospect of clicking on a malware link? Could a person sue under this statute simply because someone posts criticism that includes where they work? Does this mean that consumers dissatisfied with a company's employee cannot post about their dissatisfaction and encourage others to complaint to their boss? This statue is so vague and sweeps so broadly that it could chill the dissemination of harmless information while curtailing consumer advocacy.

For the reasons explained above and the legal arguments used in prior posts about other sponsors of HB 3047 (see https://copblaster.com/blast/35514/representative-brad-witt-thinks-he-can-violate-the-first-amendment and https://copblaster.com/blast/35515/representative-bill-post-championed-unconstitutional-bill), the bill violated the First Amendment due to vagueness and its application to constitutionally protected speech on matters of public concern. That is why we have publicly declared that we will not legitimize it with our cooperation. We are however willing to remove the addresses that we make public in opposition of this bill should the Oregon Senate refuse to adopt HB 3047, the governor refuse to sign it, or a court nullifies it. Fortunately for us the bill won't be retroactive, so even if we were to lick their boots on this issue we wouldn't have to remove information posted before it takes effect. Due to the CDA we still would not be considered the publisher of information posted by others after it takes effect. If it becomes law we will not allow it to have a chilling effect on us. In the event that we are properly served with a lawsuit we will immediately file a motion for declaratory relief in federal court on the grounds that this bill violates the First Amendment. If the court adopts the opinion of the U.S. District Court for the Easter District of California (https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/USCOURTS-caed-1_16-cv-01152/pdf/USCOURTS-caed-1_16-cv-01152-2.pdf) and the Western District of Washington (https://law.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/FSupp2/272/1135/2296098/) the law will by nullified. In the meantime we will continue to utilize our offshore infrastructure to secure our rights whether the government in our area likes it or not.

We have the right to do what we must to prevent the enforcement of HB 3047 for injuring us between the day it becomes law and the day we get it declared unconstitutional. "As we have held, where a plaintiff has refrained from engaging in expressive activity for fear of prosecution under the challenged statute, such self-censorship is a "constitutionally sufficient injury" as long as it is based on "an actual and well-founded fear" that the challenged statute will be enforced," Human Life of Wash., Inc. v. Brumsickle, 624 F.3d 990, 1000 (9th Cir. 2010). To protect ourselves and our users from such injuries we will continue to do business as usual. We can do that because we have an offshore infrastructure that prevents the American courts from being able to go over our heads and compromise our servers. We will continue to leave our block on home addresses in place on all categories of posts except for snitches and other, but that block is programmed to only work if the owner of the site has logged into his account within the past 14 days, so if anything happens to him that block will not be there anymore. He does not fear being held in contempt for refusing to honor court orders made under this bill because he is an ex-con that did time in a federal penitentiary and does not fear jail. Trying to get him to pay a fine or a judgement under such circumstances would be like getting the Bundy's to pay grazing fees, it would not work.

In closing, we don't like having to put Janelle Sojourner Bynum on blast like this, but we couldn't think of a more appropriate way to protest an unconstitutional bill targeting the dissemination of accurate information than by posting that type of information about the sponsors of the bill. We are doing it to make a point. The point is that the government itself disclosed her address, we lawfully acquired her address, and we have a First Amendment right to post her address. The state of Oregon has no legitimate claim of right to circumvent the federal constitution.

Note: Please do not use the information on this page to harm people, property, or engage in any other type of criminal activity. Nobody has ever been subjected to criminal activity as a result of being posted on this website and we don't want Janelle Bynum to be the first.

We have updated this article to include a video of the Senate Committee on Judiciary debating the bill

It is quite common for politicians to act as if they are fighting for peoples rights while attacking them in this way. They fill a series of bills with stuff people love and sneak something in that takes their rights away while they are not looking.

Then they will use the existence of a bill like this to justify restricting speech on other grounds. They will say that if it is legal to prohibit the disclosure of personal information that causes anxiety that it is therefore logical to prohibit the disclosure of anything that causes anxiety. That is why the line needs to be drawn here.

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