Kamler also asked South Africa's infamous Clinton Fein to contribute. You remember him: last year, his wall-sized photographs re-creating Abu Ghraib torture scenes reverberated like mortar bombs throughout the 49 Geary art complex. Imagine what he could do with a white dove.
"Who says what's officially annoying? Is that a business we really want our government to be in?" -- Clinton Fein, purveyor of the website Annoy.com, complaining about a bill in Congress that would make it a federal crime to "annoy" someone over the Internet.
"It's a stupid law that has slipped in under the radar," says Clinton Fein, a San Francisco-based artist who runs annoy.com, a website that he says offers "unique and irreverent" commentary on politics and culture.
Clinton Fein, who runs the Annoy.com Web site, is also aghast. His site is specifically set up to annoy people through, among other means, anonymous postcards sent through the mail that direct the recipient to read the sender's message at the Annoy.com site. Fein calls the new legislation annoying.
The nation's new cyberstalking restrictions started this month. The legislation updates laws designed to protect people from harrassment. The updated law makes it illegal to use the Internet to harrass someone. But a provision of the legislation also adds the word "annoy" to the types of communication that's illegal.
One of the people who picked up on this new language is the creator of the Web site annoy.com. Clinton Fein calls himself a political artist. He's based in San Francisco. He photoshops irreverant and frequently offensive digital postcards for users to send anonymously to whomever they want--the attorney general of the United States, for example, or perhaps your boss. Fein readily admits to pushing legal boundaries. But he wonders who, under the new law, decides what is legally annoying.
First, we will discover what Section 113 truly means when someone challenges the law. A candidate being mentioned on the Internet is Annoy.com; the site offers a "service by which people send politically incorrect postcards without being required to furnish their identity."
The site owner Clinton Fein has a history of "seeking declaratory and injunctive relief" against the Communications Decency Act of 1996 through which "indecent" computer communication that is intended to "annoy" was criminalized. Fein believes Section 113 "warrant[s] a constitutional challenge."
Annoying someone via the Internet is now a federal crime. It's no joke. Last Thursday, President Bush signed into law a prohibition on posting annoying Web messages or sending annoying e-mail messages without disclosing your true identity.
Clinton Fein, a San Francisco resident who runs the Annoy.com site, says a feature permitting visitors to send obnoxious and profane postcards through e-mail could be imperiled.
"Who decides what's annoying? That's the ultimate question," Fein said. He added: "If you send an annoying message via the United States Post Office, do you have to reveal your identity?"
Civil liberties groups have vowed to fight the legislation in the courts under the First Amendment, claiming that it would make it impossible for whistleblowers to operate without putting themselves at risk.
Clinton Fein, a South African activist who runs Annoy.com, was scathing about the new law.
"It appears that one is guilty of a crime if one were simply to 'utilise' a telecoms device 'with intent to annoy' a person regardless of the content or even in its absence," he said. "A conduct rather than a content crime; perhaps waving a BlackBerry in someone's face."