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Relating to the prosecution and punishment of the criminal offense of harassment; creating a criminal offense.
No significant fiscal implication to the State is anticipated.
HB 818 would include the publication on an Internet website of repeated communications reasonably likely to abuse, torment, or cause emotional distress to another person in the criminal offense of harassment. Communications about a matter of public concern would be exempted. The principal of a public primary or secondary school would be permitted to report such conduct to law enforcement if, after an investigation, they have reasonable grounds to believe a student has committed this offense.
Texas Action opposes HB 818 because it violates our principles of limited government, personal responsibility and individual liberty. Speech, even boorish speech by social media trolls, is constitutionally protected. This bill would violate the first amendment right to freedom of speech. People who feel harassed or annoyed by others on social media are free to disengage or to block the people they don't want to hear from. The exemption for communications about a matter of public concern does not make this legislation any less unconstitutional than the version considered by the legislature and vetoed by the governor last session.