New York movement seeks to ban anonymous comments

The idea of freedom of speech seems to be pretty straight forward.  You don’t infringe on anyone’s right to say things.  However, some Republican lawmakers in New York want to ban anonymous comments on blogs and newspaper websites in the Empire State.

The legislation, which has been proposed both in the State Assembly and Senate, would require New York-based websites such as blogs and the online hubs of newspapers and other media outlets 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.”

“This statute would essentially destroy the ability to speak anonymously online on sites in New York,” an attorney with the Center for Democracy and Technology told Wired, which first reported the news on Wednesday.

Despite the obvious constitutional implications, the co-sponsors of the Internet Protection Act have described the legislation not so much as an assault on free speech and the open web, but more as a safeguard for people—say, politicians—who sometimes find themselves the victims of anonymous online invective.

“Too often, online bullies hide behind their anonymity as they inflict pain,” wrote Republican Assemblyman Jim Conte on the website LIPolitics.com earlier this month. “My legislation turns the spotlight on cyber-bullies by forcing them to reveal their identity or have their post removed. Once a bully is identified, steps can be taken to end the harassment. Bullying is no laughing matter.”

Now, first, let me just say that it appears that this legislation appears to be dead on arrival.  However, that’s kind of beside the point.

The point really is that elected officials of a party that claims to be for freedom is trying to eliminate freedom.  You see, many people comment anonymously for a variety of reasons.  Often, it’s because they want to voice their opinions without fear of reprisal.  People judge folks based on their politics and will often seek reprisals.

What’s that?  You don’t believe me?  Well then, tell that to Robert Stacy McCain who has had to place his family into hiding.  Tell that Erick Erikson who recently had an interesting event himself.  Those who talk about politics for a living, or even as bloggers who usually work for free, often accept that reprisal is a constant factor that must be considered.  Commenters want to let their voices be heard, but may fear having to deal with friends and neighbors who don’t share their opinions making life…let’s just say “interesting”.

So we have these lawmakers who want to know who is saying what.  My question for them is why?  Why does it matter who is saying what?  The only logical reason a politician should want identities to be known is so that reprisal becomes a fear for everyone, thereby killing people’s ability to let their feelings be known while protecting their identity.

But that’s just what the statists want.


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