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Are Computers Now Illegal In Florida?

Jul 11, 13 Are Computers Now Illegal In Florida?

Law is often about intent, and in some cases laws can have unforeseen consequences. CNN reported this week that the state of Florida might have accidentally made computers and smartphones illegal.

No, some legislator didn’t actually set out to make computers and handsets illegal and turn the clock back on the state. This wasn’t about family values, banning video games or fighting pornography. Nor is Florida looking to join North Korea, China and Iran in controlling access to the Internet.

It was actually about gambling, an issue that remains a hot-button topic in many parts of the country.

CNN reported:

“A new bill passed two months ago by the Florida legislature expanded the definition of a ‘slot machine’ so that it would include regular computers being used as makeshift slot machines, closing a loophole in state laws that legislators said allowed some gambling centers to operate as Internet cafes and adult arcades.”

This shouldn’t be completely confused with the so-called “law of unintended consequence,” which Princeton University describes as, “The law of unintended consequences is an adage or idiomatic warning that an intervention in a complex system always creates unanticipated and often undesirable outcomes.”

No, this is moreover a law that has unintended consequences. However, the passing of some laws can in fact follow that law of unintended consequences. If this is hard to follow… well, that helps explain how this Florida law likely confused people, as well. It does all come down to wording.

As it happens Florida’s new, and expanded definition, for slot machines noted that it could include “any machine or device or system or network of devices,” which could be used to play games of chance or skill, and includes those that can be activated not just by inserting money, but also by an “account number, code, or other object or information.”

That does certainly sound like a computer or smartphone.

So, the question here is where are slot machines so much of a problem that it needed this new law? Actually, the crackdown was kicked off by a multi-year investigation that a number of gambling cafes were in fact masquerading as charitable organizations. It resulted in more than 50 arrests, but there has been fallout from this law already.

Florida’s Lt. Governor Jennifer Carroll has since resigned, and the new bill has in essence banned Internet cafes!

Now, the truth is that this law likely won’t be enforced and individuals’ mobile phones won’t be confiscated. More so, this law will likely advance up the legal food chain, and will likely be overturned without the need to go to the United States Supreme Court.

But, while many in the media can laugh this one off, we should also consider a more ominous side of this. If the law does stay on the books, it could be enforced; again, not to take away the average phone or computer, but it could be used as way around legal requirements for warrants.

In other words, laws like this do have the threat to erode our liberties and freedoms. If computers are illegal, then what is on those computers is no long private. That’s the bigger story in this to watch.

Image Credit: Thinkstock.com

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