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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: Should be a crime
By hero_of_zero on 5/26/2012 12:17:36 PM , Rating: 0
Why get rid of obama?when he a repub in dem clothing.Why else he happily side with repubs shitty idea's every time or run away when he challenged by the repubs .Obama care is a repub idea for decades,ndaa,extending bushes tax cuts,sopa loving ,cispa ,paul ryan grand barging bill he will sign That makes stock brokerages houses with a income a dollar under 1 billion to be called "small biz" so they get a bigger tax cut.
The banks bargain he so proudly talked about that the banks will give home owners 25 billion .But it really 4 billion from the banks and 21 billion from your pension fund and what not.
Upping old age to 67 or it 70 for you guys? saying the 2.5 trillion surplus in oas is not enough but really they been robbing the fund and putting in IOU"s .
Old obama pushed the dems to the middle and then some on the repub side and well the repubs keep going more right of obama .Because like bander said our goal is to make this prez a 1 term prez and well they can never side with him ever and they will kill your nation doing it.Like the dept bit last year.They where happy to make your nation credit rating get tanked a grade to make the dummies think obama did it.Awhile they where just filibustering.

Anyways you guys we be screwed no matter you choose obama or mitt.But least mitt budget will add another 8 t in tax cuts for himself and his buddies over the next 10 years if he gets in.After all they are "job creators" they just forget to tell you what nation the jobs will be made.


RE: Should be a crime
By BluntForceTrama on 5/26/2012 2:22:10 PM , Rating: 2
He wants a corporatist that caters to the K St whores on the right side of the street, not the left side. After all they are a superior breed of whore, don't you know.


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