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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 knutjb on 5/28/2012 2:19:15 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
Really? They're attempting to take away women's right to choose. Gay people's civil rights. The right of evryone to be free of religion or to choose their own religion by always implementing crap that talks about how this is a Christiona nation.
A womans right to choose what? That is a moral dilema. How much do you value life of the unborn? How would you feel about it if your mother had "chose" not to have you? As for the Christian comments you need a history lesson, free from modern revisionism.

quote:
Which is EXACTLY why some things should never be left up to the private sector. The private sector does not care about what's best for America; they care about what's best for the company. That usually doesn't translate into best for the country. Government is supposed the be on the side of the people. the same cannot be said for corporations.
OK Comrade. Show me where the private sector intentionally goes out of its way to harm America? I simply point to the Energy Depts loan program with a 20% success rate and falling. The GSA western conference was a winner too. That is good for America? Your fallacious arguments are terribly weak on fact and reality. Go back to LBJ's raiding of the moneys set aside for social security. Lets see, he paid for war and the great society with it. To date over $16T has been blown and we are still fighting a war on poverty? Your are so right, only government is good. BTW the 50 year return on social security contributions is 0.25% annual. That evil stock market.

quote:
The government has a responsibility to do what's best for the country. In a recession to let millions of jobs die because of right-wing ideology would be stupid. Besides, the governement will ALWAYS be in business. They have historically bought congress and manipulated the market to the point to where there truly is no free market anymore. Besides, the minute a private company hands out a government contract, the idea of the free market is out the window.
The problem is it hasn't. If the economy is prevented from self correcting, letting companies fail, you will end up with what took down the Soviet Union. A government micro-managed economy, it will never succeed. And contrary to your belief that government will always be in business. Without tax revenues from the private sector it will fail. The part where you are correct is the free market. Yep Capitalism, the free market, has its hands tied by onerous regulations. Not all are bad but most are knee jerk reactions to prevent the unpreventable. The SEC did a bang up job containing Madoff. To see my point go back and read about the depression we had following WWI. Also try George McGoverns biogrphy about his business experience after losing in 1972.
quote:
Excuse me? If you voted against them, there wouldn't be any to vote for; they always focus on these wedge issues and you know it. Nearly 100% of republicans vote in lock-step on every one of these types of bills.
Your facts? Come back to reality.
quote:
This guy is a republican backed by the Teaparty. The teaparty does not back liberals.

This proposed law is moronic. Any politician can let themselves be seduced by the "power to do good." We send them there to run things but when they try this they must be stopped and sent packing. Typically laws like this are proposed and pushed by the left. Though every once and a while one on the right does this. The big difference is those in the TEA Party, no I am not one, are already looking to find replacements for those vainly trying to prevent the unpreventable.

That typically doesn't happen on the left. On the left Joe Lieberman comes to mind but that's all that comes to mind at the moment. On the right John McCain's immagration push was knocked down, debt limit extesions, over spending, and so on are just a few causing greif for those on the right.


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