The days of Internet users anonymously making mean or unproductive comments about people online might soon be over in New York State, if a new law currently being weighed by the state's Assembly passes.
The state legislature currently has two identical bills that would change current civil rights laws to allow people to find out who posted something about them online, according to a report from TIME Techland
. In particular, it would require that a website administrator remove any postings made by an anonymous users unless that person agreed to attach their name to the comment, and confirm their real name, home address and IP address.
The law would only apply to New York-based websites, but includes, "social networks, blogs forums, message boards or any other discussion site where people can hold conversations in the form of posted messages," the report said. Though neither of the bills has yet been voted on, the rule would take effect after 90 days of its being passed.
However, the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that anonymous free speech is protected under the First Amendment, dating as far back as 1960, when the case of Talley v. California allowed the distribution of anonymous pamphlets regardless of their content, the report said. Another, more recent case came in 1995, when it was ruled that an Ohio law requiring that political campaign literature bear the name and address of the person behind the documents. As a consequence, it's unlikely that the law would stand up to legal challenge.
Experts agree that this law is almost certainly well-intentioned, and likely an attempt to help curb the rising amount of cyberbullying that now takes place on all sorts of sites, including Facebook and Twitter, the report said. One of the Assemblymen who started the bill was accused of domestic violence toward his ex-wife and son through an anonymous online posting, and he has gone on record as saying that even though the allegations were disproven, the comments could not legally be removed. Eduard Goodman
, chief privacy officer for Identity Theft
911, writes regularly about the privacy issues consumers face when online and what they can do to help mitigate any of the concerns they may have.
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