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New York lawmakers attempt to ban anonymous online speech

updated 03:02 pm EDT, Thu May 24, 2012

Fate of legislation remains unclear

New York State Senator Thomas O'Mara is attempting to push "right to know" legislation that would effectively ban online speech posted anonymously. The bill aims to "amend the civil rights law" to "protect a person's right to know who is behind an anonymous Internet posting."

The legislation would require any website administrator to remove any comments posted on their site if the authors are unwilling to identify themselves by name. Posters would be further required to prove that their provided IP Address, legal name and home address are accurate.

As expected, the bill has been met with criticism from privacy advocates and other groups. Kevin Bankston, a staff attorney with the Center for Democracy and Technology, told Wired the legislation would "essentially destroy the ability to speak anonymously online on sites in New York" and serve as a "heckler's veto" to individuals that disagree with an anonymous post.

Senator O'Mara argues that the legislation will "help lend some accountability to the Internet age."

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has continued to defend Internet anonymity, noting that individuals may be justifiably concerned about "political or economic retribution harassment or even threats to their lives.

"Whistleblowers report news that companies and governments would prefer to suppress; human rights workers struggle against repressive governments; parents try to create a safe way for children to explore; victims of domestic violence attempt to rebuild their lives where abusers cannot follow," the EFF writes on its website.

Senator O'Mara's bill has yet to come to a vote, however the bill is expected to encounter First Amendment challenges even if it does pass.

by MacNN Staff



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