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Bill targets harassment via Internet

March 07, 2002|BY LAURA ERNDE

Angie Olah of Boonsboro said that when someone posted her name and phone number on an Internet porn site without her permission she was shocked to learn that it wasn't illegal.

She asked the Maryland House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday to make such action a crime.

Olah, a park ranger at South Mountain Recreation Area, was bombarded by obscene callers who read a 1999 Internet posting, which falsely claimed she was willing to perform specific sex acts, said Del. Louise V. Snodgrass, R-Frederick/Washington.

"It was like writing someone's name and phone number on the bathroom wall, but with modern technology," Olah testified.

After she changed her phone number and the same thing happened a few months later, Maryland State Police tracked down a suspect. But Frederick County State's Attorney Scott Rolle said he had to tell Olah the case could not be prosecuted.

It's against the law to harass someone by telephone or e-mail, but not over the Internet.

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Olah approached Snodgrass, who agreed to sponsor a bill. Her proposal would make it a misdemeanor to post personal information on the Internet with the intent to harass. Violators would face a fine of up to $2,500 and three years in prison.

Web hosting services would not be held liable, but they would have to remove personal information from the Internet at the person's request.

The law would not apply to people expressing political opinions.

Tim Gough, of Annapolis, also testified, saying someone has created a Web site accusing him of being a liar.

They're trying to destroy us, both personally and professionally," he said.

Family protection lobbyist Doug Stiegler testified that he was worried the law would be used to stop him from expressing opinions.

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