Insult someone on Twitter or Facebook? A crime in Grenada

Lawmakers on the island of Grenada are tired of online "mischief." So they've banned it. How might this affect the nation's discourse?

Grenada, an online grenade-free zone. Videobuster09/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Honestly, that free speech thing can be tiresome.

People end up endlessly expressing themselves and, every second of the day, someone's going to get hurt. Online, that is.

It's too easy to take out your iPhone and type "you liberal pig Euro a***ole," or some other type of spontaneous flattery.

The island of Grenada has decided that it has had enough. Its lawmakers wish to designate the country a decorous online enclave in the midst of the vile, open-mouthed free-for-all that is the Web.

So they have passed a law that makes it a criminal offense to insult someone online.

As the Associated Press reports, if you besmirch someone's character or name, you can be fined up to $37,000 or sent to jail for three years.

Grenada's Legal Affairs Minister, Elvin Nimrod, told the AP: "We have problems when some use the technology to engage in mischief."

In many countries, though, mischief makes the world go round. It is the chief angst-propulsion method open to those who otherwise sit at home and wonder why no one cares about them.

It is the most modern way in which people can attempt to affect others, without leaving their office chairs and floral-patterned couches.

Grenada is having none of it. It has decided to take a stand and allow anyone who feels slighted by a nasty tweeter to copy the insult and present it to a court for its judgment.

I fear this may put enormous pressure on Grenada's judges.

Should someone describe a Grenadan politician as, say, "a big-eared, spineless chicken," would the court demand that the minister present himself so that the court could measure his ears?

The law is even more complicated by its respect for the idea that companies are people too.

If you have had a bad experience with, for example, Monsanto, and describe it as "a vermin on the face of the Earth's good crust," would you have to stand before a judge and explain very precisely the company's rodent-like qualities?

I foresee Grenadan judges opening secret Twitter and Facebook accounts to bemoan the overly sensitive oafs that pass before them, demanding restitution for an ego bruised or a difficult truth told.

Still, lawmakers are determined that people and companies should remain without stain in the online firmament.

Many Grenadans will look forward to learning what words, phrases, and nuances are regarded as offensive.

I am sure that they will immediately temper their tempers, even when they see politicians enact laws that seem oddly designed to protect, for example, politicians and their benefactors.

 

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