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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 is not a bad idea!
By EricMartello on 5/31/2012 5:08:07 PM , Rating: 2
That's exactly the response I was waiting for.

You're name is Ilarion Bilynsky, and you own neither boats nor airplanes. There's no dock behind your house. You have no actual customers, just fake identities. You're a fraud and a crook, and remarkably unsuccessful at everything you attempt.

OH OK! I must be him because you've declared that I am not actually who I say I am. The entertainment value of some troll thinking he is onto me is high. Please continue... :)

There's no Eric Martello. There's no Larry Peters. All these supposed customers are just you - a liar, a loser, and a troll. You've been called out everywhere you've attempted these little scams, and you make the same claims each time.

I suppose you're going to prove your claims next with more google'd information that was just a few clicks away.

If you want to live your life as a loser, have fun with that. If you want to commit fraud (which you're doing by the way,) you'll eventually end up in jail.

Which "fraud" is it that you are referring to? Do share!

But don't think that the readers here believe you.

You're right - they should take some random guy who thinks he's a CIA mastermind for executing a few google searches and finding information that was not hidden.

If anyone is actually following this exchange, reading through these two links should interest them.

Well the first link is a post I made a long time ago about a review I posted getting deleted from retarded-ratings, but the second one I have no idea about and my name is not even mentioned in that posting, which appears to have been lifted off of usenet. I actually never posted anything on usenet.

About the AT post- I wrote a positive review for a company on RR and was accused of posting a fake review by scott weener. The thread you linked to only shows why AT is full of morons - who instead of looking at the issue objectively they decided to "attack" me because there is no way their beloved RR would do something like that. People believe want they want to believe, just like you believe I am not actually me. In most cases that which people choose to believe is wrong.

I have plenty more if this continues. I'll keep posting more each time "Eric" replies.

Oh yeah, keep it flowing bro!!!

On a sidenote, the behavior you are exhibiting is exactly the type of behavior that an anti-anonymity law would address.

Can you believe that was 2003, and it's 2012 already? Business has gone downhill a little bit in the last few years, hasn't it, Ilarion?

I can say that life is pretty good for me...but judging by the amount of time you have on your hands, it looks like there isn't a whole lot going on in yours.

Feel free to keep googling me because there is no doubt that reading about me is more interesting than actually being you. :D

"There's no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance." -- Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer

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