US Federal Judge Compares Twitter Users to Colonial Americans

A judge has ruled that prosecuting a man for posting harassing tweets violated his First Amendment rights. Great! But the judges great analogy comparing Twitter users with early American settlers is what really matters here.

William Cassidy, the Twitterer in question, became involved with a religious sect run by Alyce Zeoli in 2007, reports Ars Technica. Zeoli, in case you're wondering, is "an enthroned tulku or reincarnate master who was enthroned in 1988 as a reincarnate llama."

Umm, anyway. Over time, the two had a falling out, and in the end that descended into Cassidy blogging and tweeting about Zeoli in less than flattering terms. My personal favourite is from a tweet that read: "that ho bitch so fat if she falls & breaks her leg gravy will spill out".

The federal government found the messages sufficiently disturbing to indict Cassidy for violating a 2006 anti-stalking law. Cassidy argued his prosecution violated the First Amendment. In a court room on Thursday, Judge Roger W. Titus agreed.

As part of his analysis of the case, Titus chose to explain how Twitter, blogs, and all that crazy internet shit works. Only, he chose to do it from a historical point of view. This is so good I thought I'd post the whole section for your enjoyment:

Because this case involves First Amendment issues, terms that were in use by citizens when the Bill of Rights was drafted may help in understanding the legal context of Blogs and Twitter. Suppose that a Colonist erects a bulletin board in the front yard of his home to post announcements that might be of interest to others and other Colonists do the same. A Blog is like a bulletin board, except that it is erected in cyberspace rather than in one's front yard. If one Colonist wants to see what is on another's bulletin board, he would need to walk over to his neighbor's yard and look at what is posted, or hire someone else to do so. Now, one can inspect a neighbor's Blog by simply turning on a computer.

Twitter allows the bulletin board system to function so that what is posted on Colonist No. 1's bulletin board is automatically posted on Colonist No. 2's bulletin board for Colonist No. 2 to see. The automatic postings from one Colonist to another can be turned on or off by the owners of the bulletin boards, but there is no mandatory aspect of postings on one Colonist's bulletin board showing up on the other's. It is entirely up to the two Colonists whether their bulletin boards will be interconnected in such a manner.

If you're interested, you can reads the whole decision here (pdf). Now, I might just go and alert people to this post by attaching it to my bulletin board. [Ars Technica; Image: thefixer]