New York proposes banning anonymous online comments

A New York bill, proposed Monday in both chambers of the New York State Legislature, would combat cyber-bullying by effectively banning comments from anonymous users on New York-based websites, blogs, forums, social networks, and pretty much any other form of online communication, reports Wired.

Specifically, the Internet Protection Act's goal would be "protecting a person's right to know who is behind an anonymous internet posting." If the bill (A.8688/S.6779) were to become law, website administrators would be obligated 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." All website administrators would also be required to provide a phone number or email address to receive such removal requests.

However, the measure seems unlikely to become law. No votes have yet been taken on the bill, and an attorney speaking to Wired seemed skeptical of its passage. "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. Bankston equated the bill to a "heckler's veto to anybody who disagrees with or doesn't like what an anonymous poster said."

The legislation is sponsored by Assemblyman Dean Murray and Senator Thomas O'Mara, both Republicans from New York. The bill intends to give power back to the cyber-bullied, because it "will offer them the opportunity to either confront the person making these comments by having that person identified, or have the comment removed all together in the case where this comment is false or slanderous," Murray said.

"The internet has been a great innovation for our time, it's brought forth a lot of advantages, but with that, there are abuses that come with it," O'Mara said. "This will help lend some accountability to the internet age."

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