Illinois Politician Seeks To Outlaw Anonymous Comments (But Allow Anonymous Gun Ownership)
from the is-anonymity-good-or-bad? dept
Last year, we wrote about a ridiculous and obviously First Amendment-infringing attempt by some thin-skinned NY politicians to pass a law that would effectively ban anonymous comments online. The mechanism would be that a website would have to remove any comments, upon request, unless the commenter agreed to reveal their name, and connect the comment to their name and home address. As we noted, the Supreme Court has been pretty clear that protecting anonymous speech is a key part of the First Amendment:
Protections for anonymous speech are vital to democratic discourse. Allowing dissenters to shield their identities frees them to express critical minority views . . . Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority. . . . It thus exemplifies the purpose behind the Bill of Rights and of the First Amendment in particular: to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation . . . at the hand of an intolerant society.
It would appear that Illinois State Senator Ira I. Silverstein needs a refresher course on this basic concept, as he’s recently introduced an almost identical bill to the New York one. Seriously. The wording is about as close to identical as you could imagine. Here’s the Illinois wording.
Creates the Internet Posting Removal Act. Provides that a web site administrator shall, upon request, remove any posted comments posted by an anonymous poster unless the anonymous poster agrees to attach his or her name to the post and confirms that his or her IP address, legal name, and home address are accurate.
Here’s the widely mocked NY wording:
A WEB SITE ADMINISTRATOR UPON REQUEST SHALL REMOVE ANY COMMENTS POSTED ON HIS OR HER WEB SITE BY AN ANONYMOUS POSTER UNLESS SUCH ANONYMOUS POSTER AGREES TO ATTACH HIS OR HER NAME TO THE POST AND CONFIRMS THAT HIS OR HER IP ADDRESS, LEGAL NAME, AND HOME ADDRESS ARE ACCURATE. ALL WEB SITE ADMINISTRATORS SHALL HAVE A CONTACT NUMBER OR E-MAIL ADDRESS POSTED FOR SUCH REMOVAL REQUESTS, CLEARLY VISIBLE IN ANY SECTIONS WHERE COMMENTS ARE POSTED.
It kind of makes me wonder who is going around giving state politicians this language.
Meanwhile, Jeff Jarvis notes the ultimate irony that the very same Ira I. Silverstein, just days after introducing that bill to effectively ban internet anonymity, proposed another bill to keep gun owner info anonymous, amending the freedom of information act to exempt firearms ownership data from being available to the public.
Whatever you might believe about anonymous comments and/or gun ownership, it’s difficult to put both of these laws together and not see some sort of extreme hypocrisy.