Start spreadin’ the news. Websites will be leaving New York soon. While personally I tend to like the idea of making anonymous comment spam illegal, New York’s recently proposed bills to ban anonymous online speech, seem like good old-fashioned overreaching to me:
21 2. A WEB SITE ADMINISTRATOR UPON REQUEST SHALL REMOVE ANY COMMENTS
22 POSTED ON HIS OR HER WEB SITE BY AN ANONYMOUS POSTER UNLESS SUCH ANONY-
23 MOUS POSTER AGREES TO ATTACH HIS OR HER NAME TO THE POST AND CONFIRMS
24 THAT HIS OR HER IP ADDRESS, LEGAL NAME, AND HOME ADDRESS ARE ACCURATE.
25 ALL WEB SITE ADMINISTRATORS SHALL HAVE A CONTACT NUMBER OR E-MAIL
26 ADDRESS POSTED FOR SUCH REMOVAL REQUESTS, CLEARLY VISIBLE IN ANY
27 SECTIONS WHERE COMMENTS ARE POSTED.
The purpose of the bill, as reported by the Guardian article, quoting Assemblyman Jim Conte at Lipolitcs, who co-sponsored the bill, is to combat cyber-bullying:
With more and more people relying on social media and the internet to communicate and gather information, it is imperative that the legislature put into place some type of safeguard to prevent people from using the Internet’s cloak of anonymity to bully our children and make false accusations against local businesses and elected officials.
And of course the natural solution to protect our children, businesses and elected officials is to make a law that abridges the right of people to speak freely online.
Wait, did he say elected officials? Yeah, I’ve always thought political speech is too nasty. Let’s clean it up.
One might assume that, as a graduate of State University of New York at Stony Brook with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics and Political Science, Assemblyman Conte might have stumbled upon the document that binds us all. But then again, you know what they say about assumptions.
And here’s NYS Senator Tom O’Mara eloquently expressing his support:
And setting aside the seemingly clear violation of the 1st Amendment issue, there are of course the practical ramifications.
Since the onus is placed on the website administrator to remove anonymous comments upon request, the likely outcome will be that many website admins will simply shut-down comments to their sites altogether.
And what about online surveys? And as Columbia law school professor, Tim Wu, told the Guardian, online course evaluations?
But assuming these bills become law, the most obvious outcome seems to be that people just won’t register and admin websites in the state of New York. Which is great news for the development industry in New Jersey!
But of course these are only a few of the practical consequences of this important legislation. I’m sure you can think of some more.
Perhaps PC Magazine’s Damon Poeter (@dpoeter) puts it best: Proposed NY Ban on Anonymous Commenting So Stupid it Hurts
Author requests that all comments to this article be made anonymously.