President Bush last week approved a new law that creates a federal offence out of sending an anonymous email or posting anonymous comments with the intention of annoying the recipient. It carries a maximum punishment of two years in prison and a fine.

According to CNET, which first reported on the story yesterday, the new rule was slipped into a Department of Justice funding bill entitled the "Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act of 2005," which passed without much attention.   It takes the form of an amendment to the 1934 Communications Act, and extends a provision criminalising a person who:   “makes a telephone call or utilises a telecommunications device, whether or not conversation or communication ensues, without disclosing his identity and with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass any person at the called number or who receives the communications”.   The definition of "telecommunications device" includes “any device or software that can be used to originate telecommunications or other types of communications that are transmitted, in whole or in part, by the internet”.