June 13, 2013
New York state lawmakers have proposed a ban on anonymous online comments.
Called the Internet Protection Act (A.8688/S.6779), the legislation would require a web site administrator to pull down anonymous comments from sites, including “social networks, blogs forums, message boards or any other discussion site where people can hold conversations in the form of posted messages.”
The bill states:
A web site administrator upon request shall 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. All web site administrators shall have a contact number or e-mail address posted for such removal requests, clearly visible in any sections where comments are posted.
Among the bills’ sponsors are New York Assemblyman Dean Murray and Sen. Thomas O’Mara, who say the proposed law is to fight cyberbullying.
“Cyberbullying has become one of the great tragedies of the Internet age,” O’Mara said at a press conference. “Numerous national studies tell us that upwards of 40 percent of students have experienced some form of cyberbullying at least once, and they feel helpless in the face of it. Victims of anonymous cyberbullies need protection. We’re hopeful that this legislation can be helpful to the overall effort to deter and prevent anonymous criminals from hiding behind modern technology and using the Internet to bully, defame and harass their victims.”
Critics of the bills claim the law will infringe upon free speech.
“This statute would essentially destroy the ability to speak anonymously online on sites in New York,” said Kevin Bankston, a staff attorney with the Center for Democracy and Technology told Wired, adding that anyone who disagrees with a heckler could have the comment taken down.
The proposed law raises questions over privacy and security, as well. The bill would allow website owners access to private information, like a user’s home, e-mail and IP address.
A basic website can be operated by as little as one person. The bill would give that website administrator full access to private information, with no additional security provisions for users who would have to hand over their personal information.
Additionally, website administrators currently don’t have to disclose their identity to users and can pay to protect their personal information from the WHOIS registry. If the legislation is enacted, the personal information exchange would be a one-way street.
Currently, no votes have been taken on the legislation.