A new bill in Albany has its sights set on anonymous internet trolls. The Internet Protection Act would require sites to have online commenters identify themselves.
The Act, sponsored by Assemblyman Dean Murray (R-East Patchogue) and Senator Thomas O'Mara (R-Big Flats), would require New York-based websites 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."
Assemblyman Jim Conte (R-Huntington Station) explained that the legislation "turns the spotlight on cyber-bullies by forcing them to reveal their identity or have their post removed."
The legislation would also prevent people from posting anonymous criticisms of businesses. "Too often, rival businesses will post negative and false posts to hurt their competition," writes Conte.
And lastly, the bills would help politicians. Conte again: "...the legislation will help cut down on the types of mean-spirited and baseless political attacks that add nothing to the real debate and merely seek to falsely tarnish the opponent’s reputation by using the anonymity of the Web."
There have been no votes yet on the measure, introduced in both the Senate and Assembly. If The Act were to pass, however, it likely wouldn't stand to constitutional muster. (See: First Amendment.)
“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, according to Wired, adding that the bill allows a “heckler’s veto to anybody who disagrees with or doesn’t like what an anonymous poster said.”
Albany will likely have to think of another solution to cyberbullying, a real problem, especially among teenagers.
Assemblyman Murray admits to being cyberbullied himself two years ago during his re-election campaign. From The Legislative Gazette:
Murray admitted to being a victim of derogatory website posts two years ago during his re-election campaign. An anonymous source posted on multiple websites that Murray committed acts of domestic violence against his ex-wife. The anonymous posts also said Murray's son was hiding from his father because he was being abused.
"These comments were absolutely horrible and unfortunately if you Google them now you'll still be able to pull up a couple of the comments," said Murray.