Toledo Talk

Proposed New York State Legislation Would Ban Anonymous Online Speech

Read the full text of the legislation.


Excerpts from a May 22, 2012 Wired.com article

Proposed legislation in both chambers would require New York-based websites, such as blogs and newspapers, to “remove any comments posted on his or her website by an anonymous poster unless such anonymous poster agrees to attach his or her name to the post.”

No votes on the measures have been taken. But unless the First Amendment is repealed, they stand no chance of surviving any constitutional scrutiny even if they were approved.

Republican Assemblyman Jim Conte said the legislation would cut down on “mean-spirited and baseless political attacks” and “turns the spotlight on cyberbullies by forcing them to reveal their identity.”

Had the internet been around in the late 1700s, perhaps the anonymously written Federalist Papers would have to be taken down unless Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay revealed themselves.

“This statute would essentially destroy the ability to speak anonymously online on sites in New York,” said Kevin Bankston, a staff attorney with the Center for Democracy and Technology. He added that the legislation provides a “heckler’s veto to anybody who disagrees with or doesn’t like what an anonymous poster said.”

Sen. Thomas O’Mara, a Republican who is also sponsoring the measure, said it would “help lend some accountability to the internet age.”

The Senate and Assembly measures, which are identical, cover messages on social networks, blogs, message boards or “any other discussion site where people can hold conversations in the form of posted messages.”


Related articles ...

May 23, 2012 Mashable article Lawmakers Call for an End to Internet Anonymity

Lawmakers in New York State think the root of all Internet evil lies in the anonymous nature by which comments get posted on news websites and social media.

Should the bills pass, any Internet user could call up a toll-free number that websites would be required to set up to handle such grievances. Anonymous web users would then have but a single recourse to save their posts if such a compliant is lodged against them: unmask completely by revealing their name and going through an identification process.

Should they refuse, the post must be deleted within 48 hours.

“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,” reads the draft legislation, identical versions of which have been introduces in both chambers of New York’s legislature.

State Senator Thomas O’Mara, who introduced the bill in the New York State Senate, told Mashable that his motivation is entirely to “deal with the issue of cyberbullying.”

“Cyberbullying and bullying in general is something that I think is exacerbated by the use of the Internet and the ability to get a claim or an accusation out to a mass of people quickly and anonymously that may be of a bullying sort, or contain untrue accusations,” said O’Mara. “This legislation is an attempt to do something about that.”

O’Mara has not spoken to any website hosts about the legislation, nor does he consider the idea a violation of the First Amendment.

“I’ll be taking comments from web hosts and on the First Amendment into consideration,” said O’Mara. “By no means is this an attempt to infringe upon the First Amendment. I don’t think hosts of websites want to be in a position of fostering false or unsubstantiated information, and I want to work with all interests on the bill.”

Kurt Opsahl, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, disagrees.

“The law is clearly unconstitutional,” said Opsahl. “The right to speak anonymously is part of the First Amendment and has been since the founding of this country. In fact, some of the founding documents of the country were originally written as part of the Federalist Papers, which some of our founding fathers wrote anonymously under pseudonyms. Since then, the Supreme Court has routinely held up the legality of speaking anonymously.”


Past Toledo Talk postings ...

March 2008 - Kentucky Lawmaker Wants to Make Anonymous Internet Posting Illegal

[Republican] Kentucky Representative Tim Couch filed a bill this week to make anonymous posting online illegal. The bill would require anyone who contributes to a website to register their real name, address and e-mail address with that site. Their full name would be used anytime a comment is posted.

If the bill becomes law, the website operator would have to pay if someone was allowed to post anonymously on their site. The fine would be five-hundred dollars for a first offense and one-thousand dollars for each offense after that.

Representative Couch says he filed the bill in hopes of cutting down on online bullying. He says that has especially been a problem in his Eastern Kentucky district.

Couch on Wednesday readily acknowledged that his bill raises First Amendment issues regarding free speech, so he won't be pushing it. But he wanted to call attention to the phenomenon of unkind and often untrue comments about people being posted online by Kentuckians hiding behind the cloak of anonymity.

"Some nasty things have been said about high school kids in my district, usually by other kids," Couch said. "The adults get in on it, too." Couch said he, too, has been the subject of anonymous online roasting, and while he doesn't enjoy it, he doesn't think there's much the legislature can do about it.


March 2006 - Internet civility bill stalled

A New Jersey lawmaker's attempt to legislate civility on an Internet discussion board runs into a wall of opposition from bloggers and others who saw it as an attempt to stifle free speech."

"Assemblyman [Republican] Peter Biondi and his staff said they were trying to curb malicious exchanges on some local discussion boards when they introduced a bill requiring people to provide their real names and addresses before posting on public Web sites. The bill also stated that hosts could be sued for failing to disclose the identities of people disseminating false or defamatory information.

[Biondi's Chief of Staff Scott] Ross said Biondi and his staff were responding to requests from local constituents who complained about the viciousness of local discussion boards littered with name-calling. They were shocked that the bill – drafted to bring decorum to Internet discussions – drew an intense response from Internet users far beyond the Garden State's boundaries.

Critics said the law would be unconstitutional and impossible to enforce. Ross said he can see things from their perspective, but he still believes people should maintain civility online. Biondi is anticipating a legal opinion from his state legislature's nonpartisan research division by the end of this week.


February 2007 Toledo Talk discussion about a Michael Miller Toledo Free Press column opposing anonymous Internet postings.

March 2012 comment about the myth of real name policies creating more civil online discussions.

created by jr on May 24, 2012 at 08:30:01 pm
updated by jr on May 24, 2012 at 08:56:03 pm
    Politics     Comments: 6

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tags: politics   technology   internet   anonymity   moronism   

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Comments ... #

If people got some thicker skins then who would care what they post, its still free speech up to the point JR. kills it for being outside what he deems proper on his site. Even AC has his right to say what he thinks eve if it is wrong (haha). The only thing about anonymous posting is you don't have to worry about some nutcase tracking you down for your comments to a web site. Although even though people say real name policies don't work and for the most part they don't, if it makes anyone take a second to think about what they are posting before clicking the button it might make the world a slightly better place.

posted by Linecrosser on May 25, 2012 at 05:59:55 am     #  

Oh hey, look at the REPUBLICANS unConstitutionally infringing on free speech and enacting MORE GOVERNMENT LEGISLATION.

... and this is where Liney and the other Teabaggers tell us about the great view of the pyramids and Sphinx as they go into denial.

Hey, guys, every bill your TeaOPeople enact that restricts abortion, gay marriage, anonymous posting, whatever, is MORE GOVERNMENT REGULATION, which is something you CLAIM to be against (because more regulation is BIGGER GOVERNMENT and MORE INTERFERENCE IN OUR LIVES). You know, just like how any bill that restricts firearms in any way is wrong in your book, ditto any bill that says you must buy health insurance (but hey, where's the outrage over having to have car insurance?).

Maybe if you Teabaggers would actually stop being such huge fucking hypocrites and tell the asshats you keep backing that no, this is NOT right, I might find some more respect for you.

posted by anonymouscoward on May 27, 2012 at 01:05:01 am     #   1 person liked this

Hey here's something you might understand AC, FUCK YOU! I don't condone a lot of shit and your constant barrages against anything your narrow mindset upsets you is one of them. SHUT the fuck up already with your stupid ranting about the tea party, I'm not a member nor am I a republican, maybe the same harsh language you tend to use will get my point across to you, then again I doubt it.

posted by Linecrosser on May 27, 2012 at 11:50:48 pm     #  

Linecrosser posted at 11:50:48 PM on May 27, 2012:

Hey here's something you might understand AC, FUCK YOU! I don't condone a lot of shit and your constant barrages against anything your narrow mindset upsets you is one of them. SHUT the fuck up already with your stupid ranting about the tea party, I'm not a member nor am I a republican, maybe the same harsh language you tend to use will get my point across to you, then again I doubt it.

Yet you believe Obama has a surprise waiting whereby he takes over as Supreme Dictator in November... a delusion shared by many on the right.... so if you're NOT a Teabagger or a Republican then what are you? Because you look like a duck and sound like a duck.

posted by anonymouscoward on May 28, 2012 at 02:19:45 pm     #  

And you fart like a liberal.

posted by Linecrosser on May 28, 2012 at 02:29:53 pm     #  

Linecrosser posted at 02:29:53 PM on May 28, 2012:

And you fart like a liberal.

Is that really all you got? I mean, come on, you can't even get up to "I fart in your general direction. Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries."

posted by anonymouscoward on May 28, 2012 at 06:09:23 pm     #