New York Legislators Want to Ban Anonymous Online Speech

Proposed legislation from New York’s legislature would require all New York-based websites 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.”

No votes on the measures have been taken yet, but the bill cannot be seen as anything other than yet another attack on First Amendment rights in this country.

Republican Assemblyman Jim Conte said the legislation would cut down on “mean-spirited and baseless political attacks” and “turns the spotlight on cyberbullies by forcing them to reveal their identity.”

“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. He added that the legislation provides a “heckler’s veto to anybody who disagrees with or doesn’t like what an anonymous poster said.”

Republican Sen. Thomas O’Mara who is also sponsoring the measure, said it would “help lend some accountability to the internet age.”

The Senate and Assembly measures cover messages on social networks, blogs, message boards or “any other discussion site where people can hold conversations in the form of posted messages.”

The bills forces sites to have a contact number or e-mail address posted for “such removal requests, clearly visible in any sections where comments are posted.”

Ironically the bill has no identification requirement for those who request the removal of anonymous content.

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