Dean Murray (R - East Patchogue) Online anonymity is once again under attack. This time, it comesfrom the New York state Senate floor, where is bill is aiming tocut down on cyberbullying, protect small businesses, and -naturally- protect politicians from anonymous attacks during campaignseason. This amendment would, were it approved (which it won't be, so don'tworry), require New York-based websites to remove comments posted by anonymous users , unless said users agree to attach their names to said comments. And this isn't some wishy-washy Google+ "real name" nonsense , either -- you can't just offer up a real-sounding name to attachto your comment and be done with it. According to the text of thebill, the anonymous poster must agree to attach his or her name tothe post and "confirm that his or her IP address, legal name, andhome address are accurate." Technically, that even makes my bylinesketchy, since my legal name is just Sarah Purewal. |
Websites would be required to place a contact number or emailaddress "clearly visible" in any place where comments can beposted. And no, in case you're wondering -- the person who requeststhat an anonymous comment be taken down does not have to disclose their IP address, legal name, or home address. The legislation is sponsored by Assemblyman Dean Murray (R - EastPatchogue) and Senator Thomas O'Mara (R - Big Flats). Again,according to the sponsors, the act will help to cut down oncyberbullying, protect small businesses such as restaurants fromunfounded, negative reviews, and, naturally, protect politiciansfrom baseless, derogatory attacks during campaign time. I'm surethat last concern is only an afterthought.
Now, this is not to say that I condone online bullying or libelouscomments. But cracking down on the premier form of free speech --that is, anonymous speech -- is not exactly the way to combateither of these things. As Wired's David Kravets points out, how well would the anonymously-written Federalist Papers have worked out, had Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and JohnJay been required to confirm their IP addresses, legal names, andhome addresses? Senator Thomas O'Mara (R - Big Flats) While it's true that the Internet is rife with anonymous users whotroll comment sections and forums and who get off scot-free,getting rid of anonymous commenting to combat cyberbullying is like getting rid of quick download speeds to prevent piracy . After all, most anonymous commenters aren't causing others greatmental or physical distress, just like most Internet users who wanta faster connection aren't illegally downloading movies. It's interesting that the Internet seems to make people forget howthe real world works.
According to Senator O'Mara , this bill will "help lend some accountability to the Internetage." But, of course, what Senator O'Mara is forgetting, is thatpeople aren't all that accountable in the real world, either --there are plenty of ways to be "anonymous" offline, for example, bylying. But if this legislation passes, lying will be against the law. Follow Sarah on Twitter , Facebook , or Google+ .
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