Cleveland officials say cell phones and computers could be considered as criminal tools if they’re used to rally “flash mobs,” targeting them in an ordinance made to prevent rioting.
City Council members have voted to make not only actual rioting, but inciting riots a crime, adding computers and phones to a list of items considered criminal tools, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer
Violators could be sentenced up to six months in jail and fined $1,000 not only for using messages to incite riots, but if they accept messages and then show up where a riot takes place.
The city previously tried to outlaw use of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to rally mobs, but backed off after critics said their plans were unconstitutional and violated free speech.
James Hardiman, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, said the new ordinance is also flawed and predicts it will be challenged.
“Apparently the city of Cleveland doesn’t have enough to do,” Hardiman said. “We have statutes and ordinances in place that make it illegal to riot. We have statutes and ordinances in place that make it illegal to possess criminal tools.”
Councilman Zack Reed, one of the ordinance’s sponsors, said council members are simply trying to make the city safer.
“We’ve done our due diligence," Reed said. “We don't believe it's unconstitutional.”
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