Rhode Island Says Police Can Decloak Anonymous People Online If They Find Them Offensive

from the anonymity-is-protected-by-the-first-amendment dept

We've been noticing a trend of various states attempting to pass laws against being a jerk online -- with a particular distaste for anonymous jerks. But it seems that Rhode Island is taking it to new levels. Via Copycense, we learn that Rhode Island is pushing forward with a broadly written law (for the children, of course!), which would let police get names and other identifying information from service providers for online speech that they find to be "offensive" or harassing, without requiring that it go through a judge for a warrant first. Technically, the bill allows for law enforcement to issue an "administrative subpoena" on such issues, rather than having to get a judge-approved warrant. While much of the bill is targeted at uncovering those involved in child porn, it uses that fact to mask the broad powers this gives to law enforcement to uncover who's behind all kinds of anonymous speech, without any consideration for the First Amendment protections for anonymous speech. This kind of law seems ripe for abuse by law enforcement, and the ACLU notes that Rhode Island law enforcement has already been known to seek this kind of info under questionable reasons:
Fears about the scope of this bill are not exaggerated. In the past year, there have been two highly publicized incidents of police seeking to track down the posters of comments posted online about political figures. Last fall, the Rhode Island ACLU called on Narragansett's Police Chief to drop criminal “cyberstalking” charges lodged against two town residents in separate incidents. Under this bill, police could unilaterally issue subpoenas to obtain the information.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Michael, Jun 24th, 2011 @ 3:29am

    Two can play...

    If its going to be an online "war" between government and the people on an internet battlefield, I think the government will find they are drastically outnumbered. When they start finding their identities exposed online and their faces plastered about I bet they are less likely to join these task forces... it happened to a dozen officers during the Toronto G20, and I know at least a couple ended up having to go into hiding to avoid the publicity and its repercussions on their families (google Officer Bubbles)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 24th, 2011 @ 3:32am

    Yet Mike Masnick quickly drops his pretensions about the 1st Amendment and anonymity on this site when it involves the poster Buck Lateral; IP snooping, inferences about his employment, veiled threats of revealing his identity, etc.

    Real classy.

    You really are one gigantic, hypocritical douchebag, aren't you Masnick?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    icon
    The eejit (profile), Jun 24th, 2011 @ 3:45am

    Re:

    Ah, Buck, how we missede your rants.

    Private entities can stifle speech they host. The Government, on the other hand, is bound by the First Amendment.

    This ios why you can be permabanned from forums, such as RPGNet, without them being liable to First Amendment issues.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 24th, 2011 @ 3:50am

    If it's really "for the children" then there should be a clause stating anyone over 18 is exempt. But of course, in the Police State, they can't possibly allow that. Ever. We need to make sure we can ID *anyone* *anytime* for *any circumstance*.

    Here's a simple 3 step process on how to avoid all this:
    1) Sell your soul to Satan
    2) Apply to become a police officer
    3) promise you will arrest innocent people for random reasons

    And there you have it. With those 3 simple steps, you can make your life so much more pleasant. Sure you'll be hated by everyone, but your govt will love you, give you promotions and raises. How can you lose?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Ameya, Jun 24th, 2011 @ 4:44am

    The real question is (something which this post does not answer) what will they do with the names, IP, whatnot post having acquired them? They can't ARREST someone for basically being a jerk. And unless they supply the information to the affected/influenced/commented on parties (thus allowing them to sue, harass, send hitmen to kill), there is unlikely to be a problem here.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    abc gum, Jun 24th, 2011 @ 5:11am

    Re:

    Sad troll is sad.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    abc gum, Jun 24th, 2011 @ 5:12am

    Re:

    4) ??????
    5) Profit !!111

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    abc gum, Jun 24th, 2011 @ 5:13am

    Re:

    "there is unlikely to be a problem here."

    I find your lack of imagination disturbing.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 24th, 2011 @ 5:19am

    Re: Re:

    Are you trying to tell me that the masnick isn't the government? I thought he and his loyal followers started their own nation of Freetardonia.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 24th, 2011 @ 5:39am

    Re:

    they charge them under the the equally as broad 'cyberstalking' law they mentioned in the article

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    chuck, Jun 24th, 2011 @ 5:41am

    Re:

    Well, to start with they can access a lot of your personal records once they have your name and phish away for anything even remotely illegal. Visit you at home and harass you (from your porch) in front of your neighbors, even use things they find to convince a judge to issue a warrant so they can toss your home and phish some more. There is a wide variety of things they can do and get away with it causing your life to suffer.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 24th, 2011 @ 6:13am

    FUCK YOU Rhode Island Pigs!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    icon
    Fickelbra (profile), Jun 24th, 2011 @ 6:43am

    Re: Re: Re:

    *Slow clap*

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    AJ, Jun 24th, 2011 @ 7:01am

    Re: Re:

    They can call my Portuguese proxy and ask them to give me up, but good luck getting past their privacy laws. Odds are, they are going to tell you to pound sand.... but if you do somehow manage to get through their 10 miles of red tape and bureaucracy... you may find that they spit out the ip address assigned to the holiday inn express open wifi network down the street from my house.....lol

    these guys are so clueless....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Jerk, Jun 24th, 2011 @ 7:04am

    who me?

    What if I don't live in Rhode Island?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 24th, 2011 @ 7:37am

    Re: Re:

    4. Own the prisons.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 24th, 2011 @ 7:47am

    The relentless steady march of the progressive totalitarian stateist jack booted thugs continues unabated. This is why they don't teach civics and history on school any more.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    RD, Jun 24th, 2011 @ 7:49am

    Re:

    "Yet Mike Masnick quickly drops his pretensions about the 1st Amendment and anonymity on this site when it involves the poster Buck Lateral; IP snooping, inferences about his employment, veiled threats of revealing his identity, etc.

    Real classy.

    You really are one gigantic, hypocritical douchebag, aren't you Masnick?"

    Everyone else let you off way too light on this one.

    Listen douchetard. The first amendment speech protections apply to the GOVERNMENT not being able to restrict (or create a law that does) your speech. When you go to a privately owned place, say a club or restaurant or a blog where you can leave comments, there is no such obligation. Sorry, thats just how it is. Dont like it? Go away then, or go to another country that has a first amendment-like protections on speech in private places. Oh thats right, there isnt any. Tough shit for you then.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    icon
    Thomas (profile), Jun 24th, 2011 @ 8:36am

    Just goes to show..

    that the police are not to be trusted. Suppose you post a comment that is negative about the police or a politician. Next thing you know the police are at your door to arrest you for whatever.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    icon
    el_segfaulto (profile), Jun 24th, 2011 @ 9:21am

    Re: Re: Re:

    With president Rufus T. Firefly?! Sign me up!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Hyman Rosen, Jun 24th, 2011 @ 9:58am

    Firstt Amendment Anonymity

    You are wrong about first amendment anonymity. A person is permitted to make anonymous statements in various ways, but this does not mean that the government may not attempt to find out who that person is. McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission, http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=3281990700387373626, is a good example - Ohio attempted to ban unsigned leaflets and the Supreme Court said that was unconstitutional.

    In fact, laws banning investigation and "outing" should themselves be unconstitutional under the first amendment. You have the right to try to be anonymous, but everyone else has the right to try to find out who you are.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), Jun 24th, 2011 @ 10:13am

    Re:

    Yet Mike Masnick quickly drops his pretensions about the 1st Amendment and anonymity on this site when it involves the poster Buck Lateral; IP snooping, inferences about his employment, veiled threats of revealing his identity, etc.

    I believe you're confused. First, as a private site, I am free to do what I want concerning those issues. The First Amendment only concerns governments compelling people to reveal such info.

    Second, I have not dropped any pretension about anonymity. Odd that you claim it's "Buck Lateral," because the comment you're talking about yesterday was done by someone who did not use that name. And, yet, it appears that you were able to figure out who posted it without viewing the information or the IP address... just like everyone else.

    Here's a hint: if everyone can figure out that someone is the same person by their choice of words, saying who that person is is not revealing any private information.

    Finally, I did not, in any way, threaten to drop his anonymity or reveal his identity or employment. He's the one who's been bragging about his own employment, and I have no idea who he works for anyway.

    What I did do was note that he said he doesn't believe encryption should be legal for anything other than logins and financial data, so he seemed to be giving permission to unsalt the hash on his IP address, since he didn't think it should be legal to encrypt it. I'm not going to do that, of course, because I do respect his privacy. I was just pointing out, by way of example, one more way in which he might appreciate encryption.

    I would think that if you could put two separate concepts together in your head at one time, you might be able to recognize that this was not a threat to reveal anything, but a demonstration of why he was wrong.

    Thinking: it's not so hard once you try.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    icon
    Jay (profile), Jun 24th, 2011 @ 11:01am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Funny, my slow clap processor made it into this thing.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    icon
    The Devil's Coachman (profile), Jun 24th, 2011 @ 12:54pm

    Re: Re:

    You aren't seriously trying to reason with the asshole, are you? Just insult him back. He gets off on that. But just do it once, because a lack of response to his continued stupidity causes him to grind his yellow teeth to stumps.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    icon
    btr1701 (profile), Jun 24th, 2011 @ 1:39pm

    Re: Just goes to show..

    "Here’s how social isolation develops. At the start of their careers, young cops believe that the world is divided into 'good people' and 'bad people.' The socialization pattern of the police academy soon has the officers redesigning this dichotomy to 'good people' (cops) and 'other people.' The 'other people' soon become 'as*holes.' Young officers begin seeing the world as just cops and 'as*holes,' but soon have a rude awakening when they find that veteran cops sometimes refer to officers from other agencies as 'as*holes.' The social isolation pattern deepens. Now the world is divided into 'cops in their department' and 'as*holes.' Social isolation continues to narrow until it's 'uniform cops in my district or precinct on swing shift"; everybody else is an "as*hole.' After a few years, the average cop concludes, 'It’s me and my partner' and the rest of you are 'as*holes.' Eventually he says, 'I'm not so sure about my partner. Sometimes he can be a real as*hole.'"

    From "The Brotherhood of Biochemistry: Its Implications for a Police Career," by Kevin M. Gilmartin, Ph.D., Published in Understanding Human Behavior for Effective Police Work, H.E. Russell and A. Beigel, Third Edition, 1990, Basic Books, Inc., New York

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    icon
    Hephaestus (profile), Jun 24th, 2011 @ 3:27pm

    Re: Two can play...

    "I think the government will find they are drastically outnumbered. "

    Agreed. 7 billion of us and 1 million of them. Eventually someone will create a wikileaks style directory of PII and their actions for oppressive law enforcement types and politicians. We already see this exposing of peoples id's for the lutz, from Anonymous and Lutzsec. What would happen if the estimated million Anonymous types actually got it into their collective heads to do this to lobbyists, politicians, three letter law enforcement types, **AA, and corporate heads? What if they also added all the wrongs these people have committed?

    It would be a true nightmare for those exposed of wrong doing and on the receiving end. And if they have nothing to hide ... then they shouldn't be worried.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 24th, 2011 @ 4:21pm

    Re: who me?

    Why would you expect borders to make a difference?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous, Jun 24th, 2011 @ 4:51pm

    Re: Re:

    "The Government, on the other hand, is bound by the First Amendment". LOL! LOL! LMAO! Thank you for the best laugh I've had all day!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 24th, 2011 @ 9:13pm

    Re: Just goes to show..

    Let's say that someone in another state, say, Missouri, had been a victim of a crime perpetrated by those who are supposed to uphold the law. He posts something like, "'TROOPER' BRAD ODLE (A/K/A B.D. ODLE) OF THE MISSOURI STATE HIGHWAY PATROL IS A THIEF. HE HAS BEEN KNOWN TO STEAL FROM A PERSON. NEITHER HE NOR HIS COHORTS IN TROOP G CAN BE TRUSTED".

    Hypothetically speaking, of course.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    icon
    Jeni (profile), Jun 25th, 2011 @ 5:00am

    Re: Re:

    Good call-out, eejit. I've been harassed by a similar nasty battle-ax troll for over 6 years now. Once when she posted an incredibly hateful and ignorant post on a forum I ran via a proxy, I went ahead and posted the proxy IP.

    She ran to her trashy forum and ranted that I "outed" "her" IP # (and that I "threatened" her, thus informing me that what I suspected was true - it was her making the post.

    It was an IP from a proxy out of China.

    You trolls really need to learn a simple lesson my 3rd grade teacher taught me: Think before you speak.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    icon
    icetrout (profile), Jun 25th, 2011 @ 5:45am

    Re: Two can play...

    Very good practice I must say.Should be mandatory that bill sponsor's should have their full ID & photos on the header of all bills. That make's it easier to "Tar & Feather" Traitors. :)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    icon
    icetrout (profile), Jun 25th, 2011 @ 5:51am

    Re: Pig F**king

    No thank you,pig's love to roll in s**t :O

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    icon
    sta303 (profile), Jun 25th, 2011 @ 6:35am

    demonocracy

    Unfortunately, the People have to cast their ballots with a certain degree of intelligence. Otherwise, democracy can be as evil as any totalitarian regime. You really can't blame the government without blaming the People. Americans have become so paranoid (thank you, media) and so scared of every little offense that we are quickly becoming a nation of wimps, looking at government to protect us from every hurtful word or nasty glance, even at the expense of our most treasured liberties. Orwell was right on - only government will not be using the TVs to watch us, they ARE using our computers....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    icon
    icetrout (profile), Jun 25th, 2011 @ 8:57am

    & we're on here reporting on every move the Traitors make!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
    icon
    icetrout (profile), Jun 25th, 2011 @ 9:01am

    Re:

    Need to dig up dirt on this Police Chief & start slinging mud his way until he cries Uncle(Sam) :)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    identicon
    Nicedoggy, Jun 26th, 2011 @ 2:22am

    How will they deal with anonymous forums?

    Will all that be outlawed?
    Proxies, VPN's and other things that can not be controlled by that jurisdiction will need to be outlawed?
    Will they force people to register first to use any service?

    I don't see how that law can be reasonably enforced outside a police state(i.e. like Iran and China and even then it would be difficult).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
    icon
    icetrout (profile), Jun 26th, 2011 @ 4:32am

    Re: Police Chief

    Wonder what's on the hard-drive of this police chief? Dig up the dirt on this traitor!!!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
    identicon
    Whatnow, Jun 26th, 2011 @ 7:31am

    Filming cops

    There was a long story on NPR about cops making it illegal for you to film them. From the Cops side there were two sides more filming would improve their performance. It act professional as if you were always on camera.
    The other side was it would make us look bad. You will look bad if you are acting like a jerk and abusing your position.
    There have been a number of cases the cop was absolved of charges against them because the video showed how big of a jerk the person the cop was trying to arrest was acting.

    My take is if the reason you get warrants from an outside party is the second opinion that stops bad cops. It also stops lazy cops that get the feeling the rules don't apply to them. Most little rules don't apply to them like speeding so that list for some cops gets longer and longer.
    On the free speech that only applies to Government and political speech. You are not free to stand in your neighborhood at 2 AM or really any other time and scream at the top of your lungs for hours or scream Fire in a theater.
    If you come in my house and I don't care for your conversation I can kick you out. This or any other private site can do the same.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
    icon
    Whatnow (profile), Jun 26th, 2011 @ 7:31am

    Filming cops

    There was a long story on NPR about cops making it illegal for you to film them. From the Cops side there were two sides more filming would improve their performance. It act professional as if you were always on camera.
    The other side was it would make us look bad. You will look bad if you are acting like a jerk and abusing your position.
    There have been a number of cases the cop was absolved of charges against them because the video showed how big of a jerk the person the cop was trying to arrest was acting.

    My take is if the reason you get warrants from an outside party is the second opinion that stops bad cops. It also stops lazy cops that get the feeling the rules don't apply to them. Most little rules don't apply to them like speeding so that list for some cops gets longer and longer.
    On the free speech that only applies to Government and political speech. You are not free to stand in your neighborhood at 2 AM or really any other time and scream at the top of your lungs for hours or scream Fire in a theater.
    If you come in my house and I don't care for your conversation I can kick you out. This or any other private site can do the same.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 26th, 2011 @ 6:30pm

    Re:

    Amerikkka IS a police state.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41.  
    identicon
    Nicedoggy, Jun 27th, 2011 @ 3:52am

    Re: Re: Re:

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
    identicon
    Saul Jackson, Oct 11th, 2011 @ 7:52am

    Free Speech

    The US and European whites are there own problem - the Jewish controlled media and government will eliminate them as soon as possible by mass immigration and taxes - do not struggle as it will happen - be happy.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This