New York bill would outlaw anonymous posting

A bill set forth last Monday in the New York State legislature is expected to pass, and when it does, anonymous commenting on all New York-based websites would be made illegal.

The Internet Protection Act, sponsored by Assemblyman Dean Murray and Senator Thomas O’Mara, is presented as a way to combat cyber bullying, but its many critics say it puts freedom of speech in danger.

The bill states that all websites based in the states would have 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,” the Huffington Post quoted.
“We, as citizens of the U.S., are granted freedom of speech, so that Congress, and state legislatures by association, may not make any laws abridging this fundamental right,” the HuffPo explained.

The U.S. Supreme Court, meanwhile, “has ruled repeatedly that the right to anonymous free speech is protected by the First Amendment,” according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Time reported. In 1995, the court wrote that:

“Protections for anonymous speech are vital to democratic discourse. Allowing dissenters to shield their identities frees them to express critical minority views … Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority … It thus exemplifies the purpose behind the Bill of Rights and of the First Amendment in particular: to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation … at the hand of an intolerant society.”

Word about the bill has begun to spread, and a Facebook group protesting the bill has recently been launched, according to
Murray, who in 2010 was anonymously accused of domestic violence, said detractors “have mischaracterised this bill in an attempt to have it withdrawn,” Betabeat reported. “The intent of the bill is to focus on protecting those being targeted by malicious and false statements, but would only apply to factual concerns, not opinions,” he said, adding that teen suicide is linked to extreme cyber bullying.
Tim Rodemeyer, a man whose son committed suicide due to hurtful anonymous posts, told  WGRZ that “[t]he whole anonymous thing is just a blanket of security for haters on the Internet. So this is a good step forward.”
Image: TIME

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