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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: This guy hates his job
By twhittet on 5/26/2012 4:42:17 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Whether it's voting for Romney or simply voting against Obama makes no difference in the end.


And, once again, you display what is wrong with your whole "movement", and how you don't even care where this country is going, "as long as it isn't Obama". Genius. Really. You're awesome. Never change. Not that you will - it's beyond your ability.


RE: This guy hates his job
By BluntForceTrama on 5/26/2012 4:48:43 PM , Rating: 2
Don't forget the ongoing hypocrisy of calling others trolls all the while doing absolutely nothing but trolling over on the DT Apple articles.

The double standard lives on.

quote:
Never change

Perpetual stagnancy, it's something to strive for throughout one's lifetime.


RE: This guy hates his job
By Reclaimer77 on 5/26/2012 5:07:48 PM , Rating: 2
Blunt your ENTIRE post history is dedicated to me. This is an obvious alternate account or someone in bad need of a life. Either way you're pathetic.


RE: This guy hates his job
By BluntForceTrama on 5/27/2012 6:10:22 AM , Rating: 5
Please stop flattering yourself. Your overstatement is just another deflection. One, your kind is very predicatable, and two, others like your haven't ventured as far in their arguments as you have.

There's a lot of irony in your accusation, given I sincerely doubt you behave the way you do in public. Alternate account versus alter ego? No comparison.

As part of your kind's feeble defense system you get to make ad hominem attacks on a regular basis aimed at not only individuals, but entire states, religions, political groups, anything that doesn't suit your fancy. If we examine history what do see when groups are addressed in such a manner? So who's pathetic?

And the moment someone addresses your clearly visible limitations that's a personal attack? Have you ever not lived to a double standard?

In bad need of a life? The pot factory is addressing a single kettle. Seriously? Do you exist anywhere outside this private little Idaho?


RE: This guy hates his job
By room200 on 5/27/2012 10:24:32 AM , Rating: 2
+1 Brother


RE: This guy hates his job
By Reclaimer77 on 5/26/2012 4:59:19 PM , Rating: 2
Of course I care where this country is going. Going radically into Marxism/Socialism isn't a good direction.

Please show me all the awesome things that Obama has done that would make me want to vote for him. Oh ya, you can't. So your little speech and lecture attempt is laughable.


RE: This guy hates his job
By gamerk2 on 5/27/2012 3:28:11 AM , Rating: 1
January 2009: Jobs lost: ~750,000
January 2011: Jobs gained: ~250,000

And for whatever reason, we decided to give the other guys a shot at running government. Fast forward to today, and we're at, what, about 125k a month?

So yeah, compared to where we were, economically, things are vastly improved over where they were when Obama took office. The fact things have gotten worse since Republicans took the house should farther illustrate why Obama is the correct choice.


RE: This guy hates his job
By SlyNine on 5/28/2012 10:45:10 PM , Rating: 2
Do you buy made in china to save a buck. Its no ones fault but our own.


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