Print 111 comment(s) - last by ClownPuncher.. on Jun 1 at 4:07 PM

All users posting to websites would have to post their real name and address, non-compliant posts would be axed

When people think anonymity, Anonymous and their iconic Guy Fawkes masks often pop into mind these days.  But long before the members of that controversial hacker collective were a mere twinkle in their mothers' eyes, another anti-authoritarian rabble-rouser was using anonymous protest to stir up revolt against a totalitarian ruling elite.  His name was Thomas Paine, and his anonymously published work Common Sense helped ignite the colonists in revolution against Britain.

I. Want to Post?  Put Your Legal Name and Address Here!

Yet today in the country that Thomas Paine's anonymous writings helped to give birth to, a country in which speech is supposedly free, something alarming is happening.  Several states are looking to outlaw online anonymity.

New York is among them.  The State Senate is contemplating Bill S6779 a measure that would force users to post (and verify) their home address, IP address, and legal name in any post they make online.

That's right; New York is considering laying waste to privacy and anonymous speech in the name of "preventing" online bullying.  The bill describes:

A web site administrator upon request shall remove any comments posted on his or her web site by an anonymous poster unless such anonymous poster agrees to attach his or her name to the post and confirms that his or her IP address, legal name, and home address are accurate. All web site administrators shall have a contact number or e-mail address posted for such removal requests, clearly visible in any sections where comments are posted.

It's unclear exactly how much support the bill has in the State Senate.  It was introduced just over two months ago by Sen. Thomas F. O'Mara (R—Big Flats).  

Senator Thomas O'Mara
New York Republican State Senator Thomas O'Mara wants to force anonymous internet posters to surrender their right to anonymous free speech.
[Image Source: Thomas O'Mara]

Under the plan, New York State law enforcement officials and employees would be taxed with -- using taxpayer money -- sending takedown requests to websites.  Of course, the irony is that the law is grossly out of line with federal laws -- and likely unconstitutional -- thus if a website is hosted by out of state companies New York regulators might have no way of "forcing" websites like 4Chan or blogs to expose their users.

II. First Amendment, Anyone?

Such a practice would be unacceptable to most web businesses involving user-generated posts.  Not only would it violate user privacy and raise legal liability issues, it would also likely decrease participation.  At the same time it would hit sites with a double whammy by requiring them to pay for expensive code additions and extra administration.

The First Amendment states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Several state laws prohibiting anonymous pamphlets have already been ruled unconstitutional.  See Talley v. California (1960) and McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission (1995), for Supreme Court rulings defending citizens' right to anonymous speech and printed works.

Supreme Court
Despite at least two Supreme Court rulings beating them back, states' effort to ban anonymous free speech has persisted into the digital era [Image Source: City-Data]

Thus, one thing is for sure -- if New York does adopt this wild restriction of civil liberties, it will surely be swiftly challenged.  And based on past precedent, it will almost certainly be ruled illegal on First Amendment grounds.

Sources: NY State Senate, AP

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RE: This guy hates his job
By ClownPuncher on 5/25/2012 7:50:36 PM , Rating: 2
I do agree. It's sort of amazing how things got distilled, repourposed, simplified, distilled again and then scrambled.

RE: This guy hates his job
By knutjb on 5/26/2012 1:00:43 AM , Rating: 2
Exactly. Progressives were viewed in a dim light after WWI so they dropped the name and slowly spread into both parties but mostly with the democrats. They high jacked the liberal term for many years until most had forgotten or never knew the original meaning of progressive. They continually take common terms and twist their meaning.

Progressives believe they know best and you are too stupid to know any better. Teddy Roosevelt was one for a while then came to his senses. Margret Sanger, Woodrow Wilson,... there are plenty out there to choose from. Know your history; it's the most terrifying read out there.

John Locke is an excellent read. Amazing wisdom.

RE: This guy hates his job
By Reclaimer77 on 5/26/12, Rating: -1
RE: This guy hates his job
By idiot77 on 5/26/2012 1:40:52 AM , Rating: 3
Because you're retarded and honestly, you're what that moron had in mind when he wants less anonymity. My guess you're winning personality is why you rarely leave your house.

RE: This guy hates his job
By BluntForceTrama on 5/26/2012 5:13:28 AM , Rating: 1
The proposed legislation is quite stupid, but he hates it for the same reasons the KKK would hate not being anonymous, they're simply too embarrassed to behave that way in real life.

On a more realistic note, should this law apply to journalists as well? The Associated Press doesn't sign 95% of the articles they produce.

RE: This guy hates his job
By knutjb on 5/26/2012 2:28:10 AM , Rating: 1
Sadly you’re shallow. Kind of like Homer, ummm doughnuts… easily distracted from the event. The correct label does make a difference. Over simplification presents an incorrect image. You are happy with:
Every American knows when someone calls this a-hole Senator from NY a "liberal", what that means. Isn't that all that matters?

But there is more to it. Try reading what was suggested and then you might just understand the parsing. That is unless you're complict...Nah, just read.

RE: This guy hates his job
By Reclaimer77 on 5/26/2012 9:19:02 AM , Rating: 2
Sorry but I refuse to use political terminology that's simply not applicable to American politics in a discussion about American politicians. Understand that and move on. Why are we still talking about this?

If I'm "shallow", than you and Clown are being anal retentive.

RE: This guy hates his job
By room200 on 5/26/12, Rating: 0
RE: This guy hates his job
By ClownPuncher on 6/1/2012 4:07:00 PM , Rating: 1
You're not right, because he isn't a liberal. You and I both disagree with him, but that doesn't mean he is a liberal by any stretch of the imagination. Your misunderstanding of the terms makes you incorrect. If you drop the ego for a minute, you can learn.

"If they're going to pirate somebody, we want it to be us rather than somebody else." -- Microsoft Business Group President Jeff Raikes

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