Ohio political commentators sue over online harassment ban

From The Associated Press

A group of liberal and conservative online political commentators in Ohio has filed a constitutional challenge to the state’s recently enacted law against internet harassment.

A federal lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Cleveland alleges a prohibition against knowingly posting text or audio statements or images on a website “for the purpose of abusing… or harassing another person” violates the commentators’ constitutional rights to free speech and expression.

The plaintiffs in the suit are the liberal blog Plunderbund; the Portage County Tea Party, represented by well-known GOP detractor Tom Zawistowski; and John Spinelli, a freelance political reporter.

All contend they or their organizations “routinely engage” in protected speech that “may be considered provocative” and the law now subjects them to “a credible risk of prosecution.”

At issue is a prohibition included in a bill expanding crimes of menacing and telecommunications harassment that unanimously cleared both chambers of Ohio’s Legislature last session. Republican Gov. John Kasich signed it, and it became law Aug. 16.

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