The New York State Assembly has proposed a law that would make sweeping changes to how people communicate on the Internet. The Bill called the “Internet Protection Act” A:8688 /S.6779 would require the following:
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.
Clearly, this would create profound problems for civil libertarians and others who believe that people should be allowed to post their views anonymously. In fact, it might be unconstitutional, to the extent that a court would find that it violates the principle that anonymous free speech are matters of public concern is protected by the First Amendment.
Specifically, in McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission, 514 U.S. 334 (1995), the United States Supreme Court stated:
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
People who post on websites, as well as webmasters, should follow this development to see if the law ultimately is signed by the Governor, and if so, whether it starts a nationwide trend.
© 2012 Nissenbaum Law Group, LLC
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