A cadre of Democrat state representatives has introduced a bill that would attempt to shield elected officials from online harassment.
House Bill 6410, or An Act Concerning Guideline for the Reporting and Enforcement of Online Harassment of State and Municipal Elected Officials, aims to create “guidelines that find a balance between making election officials accessible to the people whom they serve and protecting them from abusive, offensive or threatening online harassment”.
Six lawmakers, Rep. Jennifer Leeper (D-Fairfield), Rep. Sarah Keitt (D-Trumbull), Rep. Eleni Kavros DeGraw (D-Avon), Rep. Corey P. Paris (D-Stamford), Rep. Aimee Berger-Girvalo (D-Ridgefield) and Rep. Mary Welander (D-Derby), introduced the bill in late January. It was referred to Joint Committee on Government Administration and Elections.
The bill received some backlash on Twitter where some feel like the proposed legislation is an attack on free speech rights.
“Connecticut WILL not “report” people for making “offensive” replies to their tweets. Just no. SAY NO to 6410,” Amy Chai, who ran as an independent for Connecticut’s 3rd congressional district in 2022, tweeted. “Let’s call it the “Just no say” or the “Don’t say hey” or the “bill to prevent constituents from complaining” bill.
“Ostensibly, this bill limits comments in social media and other public places in your discussions and criticism of elected/public officials,” blogger Bob Swick wrote. “Apparently the Democrats will now unconstitutionally redefine defamation of character and put a lid on freedom of speech and expression, especially when you are disagreeing with them.”
The bill comes a year after State Rep. Liz Linehan (D-Cheshire) was involved in a confrontation with Colleen Dabkowski, a constituent and conservative activist who had been critical of Linehan’s policies and voting record.
Linehan approached Dabkowski at her place of employment and remarked that she was surprised that Dabkowski had a job because of how much time she spent online “trolling” her. The application was ultimately denied after the applicant testified that Linehan never made her feel physically threatened.