New York Lawmakers Want Anonymous Comments Banned

A bill before the New York State Assembly would essentially ban anonymous comments on New York-based Web sites.

A bill before the New York State Assembly would essentially ban anonymous comments on New York-based Web sites.

Earlier this week a Wired writer discovered a bill had been introduced this spring in both chambers called the Internet Protection Act. The proposed law would require that 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.”

Additionally, “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.”

The law would apply to anyone who maintains or manages online content, including social networks, blogs, message boards and “any other discussion site where people can hold converstions in the form of posted messages, accessible via a network such as the Internet or a private local area network.”

The bills were introduced in Albany by Assemblyman Dean Murray (R-East Patchogue) and Senator Thomas O’Mara (R-Big Flats) who, along with supporters, say such a radical step is necessary to reduce cyberbullying.

“Too often, online bullies hide behind their anonymity as they inflict pain. My legislation turns the spotlight on cyber-bullies by forcing them to reveal their identity or have their post removed,”Assembleyman Jim Conte, who represents Long Island’s 10th District, said in a May 10 statement. He also said the law would crack down on rival businesses anonymously posting disparaging comments about a competitor and prevent people from posting mean-spirited and baseless attacks against politicians.

Reaction to Conte’s remarks was fierce, leading the Long Island lawmaker this week to issue another statement through the same site, LIPolitics.com, reiterating the law’s intent.

“Too often we hear news reports about teenagers who have attempted or committed suicide due to anonymous online attacks. … As a father of three teenagers, I decided action needed to be taken in order to protect innocent lives. That is why I supported this bill,” he wrote.

“This bill will not limit free speech, but has been crafted to stop cowards from attacking vulnerable people in hurtful ways. Innocent victims should not be forced to live in fear from anonymous sources who seek to bully and intimidate.”

Murray also defended his bill in a statement sent to the same political Web site. “This is not about policing opinions; this is about empowering the victims of deliberately malicious attacks with the means to preserve their reputation and dignity. Simply put, if you are willing to make hurtful claims about someone, you should own up to it and attach your name.”

So far neither chamber has voted on the bill, but critics believe its passage will swiftly be challenged in courts to determine if the state measure violates free speech guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.

Several states, including Florida, Montana, Oregon and Texas, have protected anonymous comments on news sites under their shield laws. Meantime, in the last two years many news organizations have migrated to software that prevents anonymous comments, such as linking commenters to a personal Facebook page, as a way to reduce the number of inflammatory and ill-informed contributions to online threads. This, of course, hasn’t prevented people from setting up fake accounts to get past filters.

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Discussion

  • Anonymous on

    State governments: Vehemently deny attacks and hacks of SCADA servers, but reduce privacy under the excuse of cyberbullying. What's next? Last time I checked, there are better things to worry about than cyberbullying.
  • Anonymous on

    No masks during protests, no anonymous comments... What's next, public voting in presidential elections? Down with democracy!

  • edud on

    Malicious attackers don't care about laws... wake up...
  • Anonymous on

    Two words, Mr. Lawmaker...F*ck off.

  • Anonymous on

    This is pure insanity. So my rights get taken away because someone actually cares about what someone else says about them on the internet?

  • Anonymous on

    this

    He also said the law would crack down on rival businesses anonymously posting disparaging comments about a competitor and prevent people from posting mean-spirited and baseless attacks against politicians.

    plus the R after the name.


    this is not to curb bulling.

  • Anonymous on

    Politicians are easy to troll by the looks of it.  What a bunch of wieners.

     

  • Anonymous on

    There seems to be two extremes and no one in blanace. Power hungry criminals who want abosloute control, and weak coward criminals who want to hurt others and get away with it.

    Can anyone out there get a balance so that people are protected and privacy respected ?

    If we stop being so polarised and start to work towards safety and privacy it may go better. it seems now that it won't happen easily, because we only have two extremes talking.  Where are the voiced, that I know exist, that can gives us both protection and privacy ?

     

  • Dwight Schmuck on

    I'm thinking they just don't care anymore about the US Constitution.  This is a very stupid proposal in that the allleged bullies will find other ways to go after their targets.  And, let's be real here.  These 'law-givers' are not really interested in comments to you or me, they only want to stop the anonymous comments to them.  THEY are afraid of US.  Now, come November, vote the SoBs OUT.  And, finally, this IS my real name.

  • Anonymous on

    The law appears unconstititional.

    From McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission 514 U.S. 334 (1995):

    "Protections for anonymous speech are vital to democratic discourse. Allowing dissenters to shield their identities frees them to express critical minority views . . . Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority. . . . It thus exemplifies the purpose behind the Bill of Rights and of the First Amendment in particular: to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation . . . at the hand of an intolerant society."

    Another 1st amendment decision:
    "It is the purpose of the First Amendment to preserve an uninhibited marketplace of ideas in which truth will ultimately prevail, ... That right may not constitutionally be abridged either by Congress or by the FCC. " - 395 U.S. 367
    Red Lion Broadcasting Co., Inc. V. FCC, 395 U. S. 367 (1969)

    Combining the two decisions, legislation that would curtail "critical minority views" would not preserve "an uninhibited marketplace of ideas".  Therefore, the proposed law appears to be unconstitutional.

  • Anonymous on

    My anonymous comment: Politicians should stop making ill conceived laws. Now give me a moment, while I get the door. The police are here already to take me away.

  • Anonymous on

    "or a proviate local area network."

    'proviate'?


    "Murray also defended his bill in a statement sent to on the same political Web site."

    "sent to on the same" ?

    Looks like Threatpost needs better editing.

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