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Saturday, July 13, 2013

Florida Banned All Computers

The on-the-ball lawmakers of the US state seem to have accidently banned all PCs from Florida in one of the poorest cases of knee-jerk reaction seen in American politics.


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It all started after one of its local leading politicians, Florida Lieutenant Governor Jennifer Carroll, became involved in an online gambling scandal. It turned out that a charity which she was connected with was closed down on suspicion of being an online gambling front. Although Carroll resigned, her colleagues still wanted to make sure that nobody could gamble online ever again.

Thus, they drafted a law which meant to close down all Internet cafes in Florida (the idea was that if you go to an Internet cafe, you can gamble online). Nevertheless, the wording of the law did more than just shut down Internet cafes – it turned out so broad that it actually banned the use of all PCs and smartphones in the state.

Indeed, the bill signed into law by Florida governor back in April 2013 got about 1,000 cafes immediately closed in a Chinese-style crackdown. The main problem was that the bill defined a gambling slot machine as “any machine or device or system or network of devices” which could be used in games of chance. As such, taken into account that almost every computer can play poker, all computers can be considered illegal. At the moment, Consuelo Zapata, an owner of the Miami-Dade county Internet cafe Incredible Investments, is suing Florida and demanding to overturn the ban, because the definition in question is too broad and could be applied to any number of electronic devices.

It seems that the state will win the “most stupid IT law” award of the year. The other challengers are Arizona, which updated its telecommunications harassment bill to target cyberbullies while making it against the law to troll someone on a message board, and New York, which tried to ban anonymous Internet comments.

Industry experts point out that in case the legislation is allowed to stand, it would mean that every PC, smartphone, smart TV, and games console may be required to be shipped out of Florida just in case they could be used for gambling. As such, it would turn the state into a place that could be quite popular with the Amish but few others. Well, at least they won’t be gambling anymore.


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