Online anonymity banned in proposed New York state bills


A bill proposed in the New York senate and assembly in May 2012 would ban anonymous online commenting. Critics say it is in violation of the First Amendment.



Two identical bills introduced in the New York senate and assembly, called S6779 and A8688 respectively, would ban anonymous online commenting, according to Time magazine.

The bills propose amending civil rights law to "[protect] a person’s right to know who is behind an anonymous internet posting," according to Time.

A web administrator would be required to "upon request 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," said Time.

This would include social networks, blogs, message boards and any other forums of discussion.

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Republican Assemblyman Jim Conte said the bill would decrease "mean-spirited and baseless political attacks" and "turns the spotlight on cyberbullies by forcing them to reveal their identity," according to Wired.

Sen. Thomas O'Mara, who also supports the measure, said it would "help lend some accountability to the internet age," Wired reported.

Critics of the proposed legislation have pointed out it is in blatant violation of First Amendment rights. Tim Wu, a professor at Columbia University law school, told the Guardian, "There are lots of good reasons to ban anonymous comments, and also a lot of good reasons to have anonymous comments, and the state assembly weighing on the issue is strange and slightly ridiculous, slightly goofy."

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The Electronic Frontier Foundation noted that a 1995 Supreme Court ruling protects anonymous free speech, stating, "Protections for anonymous speech are vital to democratic discourse. Allowing dissenters to shield their identities frees them to express critical minority views."

Tech blog Tecca also pointed out that revealing IP addresses would not verify a person's identity and revealing home addresses could potentially lead to stalkers.

Neither bill has been voted on.

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