The tribal government at Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation is looking for feedback on a proposed law that could see violators face jail time and fines for posting damaging or threatening information on Facebook or Twitter.
The Chippewa Cree Business Committee tabled its reading of the electronic-libel ordinance because tribal Attorney General LeAnn Montes said the committee had not received enough public input on the law yet.
The ordinance would make it a crime to “abuse the Internet, particularly social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, to disseminate with malicious intent any information that would tarnish a person’s reputation or violate one’s privacy. ”
Anyone caught using the Internet to “threaten, terrify, or harass a person” or make “false statements concerning death, injury, illness, criminal conduct, or indecent conduct” could face “a maximum fine of $5,000 and/or up to one (1) year imprisonment, ” according to the draft that was tabled Thursday morning.
Montes said her office staff members needed to go over the law themselves and hoped tribal members would do the same and offer their thoughts.
She had no comment this morning on the validity or enforceability of the proposed law.
The proposal came from recent Business Committee initiate Stacey Small, who was not available for comment this morning.
The tribal government has struggled with distributing information that has led to a an active online community that spreads rumors and half- or untruths through the reservation faster than word of mouth was ever able to. KHEW, the tribe’s radio station, has helped alleviate the problem over the past year, but Small appears to still have qualms about the rapid spread of misinformation.
Committee Chair Bruce Sunchild Sr. said Thursday that he wasn’t sure whether the proposal would ever become law once the lawyers take a look at it.
“They’ll probably find that freedom of speech; you can’t do anything about, ” Sunchild said. “I don’t know if it will go anywhere. ”
Full text of the proposed ordinance
The Chippewa Cree Tribe, through the Business Committee have received several requests from the community to adopt legislation penalizing individuals who abuse the internet, particularly social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, to disseminate with malicious intent any information that would tarnish a person’s reputation or violate one’s privacy.
This proposed legislation makes it a crime to use electronic communication to:
• Threaten bodily harm to a person, or harm to his or her family or property
• Communicate repeatedly in order to threaten, terrify, or harass a person
• Make false statements concerning death, injury, illness, criminal conduct, or indecent conduct
The law also prohibits knowingly allowing anyone else to use your computer or other device to threaten, harass, or make false statements. A conviction can lead to a maximum fine of $5,000 and/or up to one (1) year imprisonment.