NY Lawmakers Want To Do Away With Anonymous Online Comments

Anonymous hate-mongering,name-calling and venom-spitting has been around the Internet since before many of the people reading this post even had an e-mail address. While most of us have just come to accept that this is part of the cost of having an online community, state lawmakers in New York have drafted legislation that intends to do away with anonymous commenting.

According to the legislation, introduced earlier this year in both the state house and senate, “a web site administrator upon request shall remove any comments posted on his or her web site by an anonymous poster unless such anonymous posted 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.”

One sponsor of the state senate bill says it would, “help lend some accountability to the Internet age.”

But an attorney with the Center for Democracy and Technology tells Wired.com, “This statute would essentially destroy the ability to speak anonymously online on sites in New York,” by providing a “heckler’s veto to anybody who disagrees with or doesn’t like what an anonymous poster said.”

As Wired points out, it’s hard to imagine a world in which this bill would pass any legal challenge, but it’s nice to know that our politicians continue the time-honored tradition of wasting their time on pointless legislation.

New York Legislation Would Ban Anonymous Online Speech [Wired.com]


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  1. MeowMaximus says:

    So glad to see that the NY Legislature has solved all of the state’s other problems.

    • kc2idf says:

      Yeah, no kidding!

      I’m sure this came about because one of our “beloved” assemblymen or senators got his ox gored by an anonymous post.

    • Jawaka says:

      So they’re only allowed to focus on things that you approve of? What if all of their ‘important’ meetings were on Thursday? Should they just take Wednesday off?

      • MeowMaximus says:

        This legislation is nothing more than waste of time and money, as it is VERY unlikely to be approved, and even if it is, it will be shot down by the courts.

  2. TuxthePenguin says:

    “Anonymous hate-mongering,name-calling and venom-spitting” But isn’t that what many people come to the comments here for? /sarc

    Won’t pass Constitutional muster. Period.

  3. Important Business Man (Formerly Will Print T-shirts For Food) says:

    Wait, so who would this affect? Only websites that are hosted in New York? Or the commenters on websites who live in New York? I’m so confused!

    • xanadustc says:

      Dont forget the webmasters state! I own both a web hosting company AND a web design company. If I host a site in New York, or if I manage a site in New York…of if I live in New York?….Do they account for the oddities of people sharing hosting, etc? Wow…I think my head will explode if I think too much about it.

  4. dullard says:

    How would NY apply a State law against a website that is not in NY and a poster who is not in NY? I guess it could be argued that it is readable in NY, thus providing the required connection.

    This, of course, is a separate issue from the constitutionality of such a law.

    • kc2idf says:

      There are two prongs to the constitutionality, as well.

      First, there is the obvious first-amendment issue: does the first amendment allow us to be anonymous when practicing free speech? I know how I feel about it, and I think there is case law to back me up on it, but I don’t know for sure.

      Second, there is the commerce clause issue. The site would have to be hosted in New York, and the poster and all readers would have to be in New York, or it is out of the state’s jurisdiction.

      I live in New York (near Albany, no less), but my sites are all hosted in Virginia, Lousiana or the Cayman Islands. I suspect strongly that if I were challenged, I could mount a constitutional defense. Hopefully, it will never come to that (I’m not a big enough fish anyway).

      • iesika says:

        I was thinking about the commerce clause, too. Any effort by states to “regulate” the internet kind of…flies in the face of that.

      • MarkFL says:

        Third, there is the technical issue. How many people even know their IP address?

        What if you’re not posting from your own computer? Do you have to identify your own IP address or the one you’re using at that time? And what if you’re on a dial-up connection?

        Not to mention the webmaster doesn’t know if I’m making up the identifying info.

        Also, there is NO WAY I’m going to post my home address online. How about this:

        Mark Johnson, 542 W. 37th Avenue, Florida City, FL says: I will be out
        of town next week visiting family. Can anyone recommend a good place
        to board my dog?

        Which reads as:

        Nobody will be home next week at 542 W. 37th Avenue, Florida City,
        FL. The dog won’t be guarding the house, either. Come early before
        all the good stuff is gone.

        (Of course, that’s not my real last name or address and I am in fact posting this via a dial-up connection. I don’t live in New York so the legislators responsible for this bill can bite me.)

  5. Tim says:

    Good thing Consumerist is based outside New … oh, wait.

    That sucks.

  6. madmallard says:

    the names responsible for this in the legislature, if they are so confident in the material, need to be plastered all over any and every association/report of this bill.

    • JennQPublic says:

      As well as their home addresses.

      Because I totally want the guy I’m arguing with on the Internet to know where I live…

      • Lyn Torden says:

        And his IP address!

      • madmallard says:

        Its more justifyable to know this information on someone who has power of the state and force of law over other citizens, than it does some unsupervised 13 year old on a laptop their grandparents bought them. :/

    • Kuri says:

      Just shows that they’re too happy to sacrifice the freedom of others for their own safety.

  7. mikedt says:

    Don’t kid yourself. This has less to do with hate-mongering than it does with giving corporations an easier way to hit critics with SLAP suits.

    • Holden Caufield says I'm a phonie says:

      I agree… especially since we’d be required to confirm our home address as well…. easier to get us.

    • oldwiz65 says:

      Or government agencies going after critics; for example, you write something critical of the local police and they have it taken down and then you are on their shit list and get a ticket every time you go 1 mph over a limit.

      Doesn’t New York have other serious problems to deal with? Why do lawmakers at state and fed level waste time on trivial “hot button” issues instead of serious things.

  8. Lyn Torden says:

    The law he should propose instead is one that requires the web site to accept opposing anonymous views whenever any anonymous poster posts something someone else doesn’t agree with or just doesn’t like being said.

    Oh wait.

  9. Hi_Hello says:

    seems like they don’t know how the internet works…

  10. Blueskylaw says:

    Somehow, NY lawmakers will attach an amendment to this bill giving them the power to find out who you are and what you buy and eventually send you a beautiful present in the form of a tax bill at the end of the year.

  11. energynotsaved says:

    I am already fearful of posting a negative review of anything.

  12. duncanblackthorne says:

    More retarded, misguided legislation that will not only not accomplish what they think it will (it’ll likely do the opposite), but not technically possible, either, and not even to mention that it flies in the face of the 1st Amendment rights of every citizen of this country — all with the excuse of “To protect the children!”

    Memo to retarded, luddite politicians: You want to really “Protect the children”? How about you protect the Consititution of the United States, instead of attacking it!

    • sponica says:

      sure I don’t want it govt mandated, but I have NO PROBLEM with companies saying, you’re free to say whatever you want but you have to give us information that we can validate before it’s published.

      honestly since one of the local papers started treating internet comments like letters to the editor, a lot of the hateful vile speech went away. it’s a much more pleasant experience…

  13. dolemite says:

    Heh, it was only a matter of time. With the media blowing up “bullying” as some imagined national crisis, the less intelligent legislators will hop to it to appease the clueless masses.

    With the epidemic of “child porn”, we’ve expanded state and federal surveillance powers, then toss in the scary “terrorism”, and now we need to curb free speech and anonymity for the sake fighting the evil bullies.

    • RvLeshrac says:

      Bullying isn’t an “imagined crisis,” but the solutions for it are ridiculous.

      If we focused on severely punishing the parents of schoolyard bullies, and focused on expelling the college-aged ones, it would end.

      • dolemite says:

        It is an imagined crisis in the fact it is no more prevalent today than it was 10, 20, 50 years ago. It’s been around since mankind has been. It will always be around. You can’t legislate it out of existence. It’s simply the current media darling because of a few high-profile cases of suicide. Teen suicide has also been around forever, due to bullying or not.

  14. ianmac47 says:

    This will have the effect of driving internet companies out of New York State, if its even enforceable.

    • ZachPA says:

      No, the fact that there are so many other environments with more favorable tax policies, much cheaper real estate and labor, and better law. That’s why everyone leaves NY.

  15. Kuri says:

    So, if an argument happens online, say in a game, they’re perfectly fine with someone being able to track the other down and beat the ever loving piss out of them.

  16. HogwartsProfessor says:

    Yeah, like this will actually stop people from saying “NY lawmakers, you suck.”

  17. Tunnen says:

    Ok, so how exactly would a state law be enforceable on the Internet? The only way I can see them being able to do anything is if the server happened to be located in NY state. Now what happens if a website creator/administrator happen to be outside NY state, but happen to use a hosting agency in NY? And then for the other 99.99% of the websites that are not hosted in or by anyone in NY, what do you do?

    I really wish the government would think a little before trying to make any more unenforceable laws, or waste time on things that will likely be struck down by the courts.

  18. Back to waiting, but I did get a cute dragon ear cuff says:

    We don’t need no stinkin’ first amendment. Now, papers, please.

  19. GoldVRod says:

    1000 bucks says the proponents of this bill have had their poor ickle feewings hurt by someone call them a douche bag online somewhere.

    I also find it amusing that the two republican idiots pushing forward this bill claim it will reduce “mean-spirited and baseless political attacks”.

    Baseless political attacks? Seriously? Have they seen a political endorsement commercial recently?

  20. Taylor Rolyat says:

    District Office Phone #’s

    607-735-9671 – Thomas O’Mara
    631-271-8025 – James Conte
    631-207-0073 – Dean Murray

    Call ’em up

  21. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    So how will they ID commenters? There’s such a big uproar over voter ID, I mean we can’t ask people for ID when they show up in person to vote, so how could we ask for ID when people comment online?

  22. lvdave says:

    WHEN are these brain-dead STATE politicians gonna learn that the Internet is NOT something THEY can regulate?? If this b.s. passes, I’d LOVE to see NY *try* to penalize somebody NOT in NY for an anonymous posting.. It AINT happening..

  23. damicatz says:

    Once again, New York leftists have managed to outdo themselves in turning their state into a miniature version of Soviet Russia.

    Productive individuals are fleeing New York in droves because of the high tax rates and burdensome regulations placed on both person and business.

    • damicatz says:

      Oh and before anyone gets the idea, I lump neoconservatives and their ilk into the liberal/leftist category because neoconservatism is basically the remnant of the socially-conservative fiscally-liberal Southern Democrats (dixiecrats) who split with democrats after the party-at-large decided that discriminating against non-whites was wrong.

      • Jer in Denver says:

        > ‘Dixiecrats’.
        > New York


      • Kuri says:

        I’m imagining you having this huge map over your desk with photos on it connecting by red strings.

      • cbutler says:

        My cousin, from New York is a republican but never votes. I asked why one day and he said “Are you f***king kidding me? Thats like pissing into a tidal wave.” Haha.

      • MarkFL says:

        “I lump neoconservatives and their ilk into the liberal/leftist category”

        Ah, now I get it. You intentionally make a mockery of yourself. FYI: Stephen Colbert is already doing this schtick, but in a less over-the-top manner.

    • GoldVRod says:

      This was put forth by two republicans.

      • DarthCoven says:

        damicatz is claiming that they’re leftists despite the fact that they vote party line, simply because no New York Republican can be a true Republican if they’re even a half centimeter to the left of Ayn Rand.

    • DarthCoven says:

      No true Scotsman, eh?

    • drjayphd says:

      So, Republican drafted the bills, Republicans are the only sponsors so far… and you’re blaming this on LEFTISTS.

      Let’s review.
      Senate bill 6779, introduced by Sen. O’Mara (R).
      House bill 8688, introduced by Dean Murray (R), co-sponsored by Philip Boyle (R), Al Graf (R), Michael Montesano (R), Claudia Tenney (R), James Conte (R), Peter Lopez (R), Janet Duprey (R), Mark Johns (R), Gary Finch (R), Nancy Calhoun (R), Brian Curran (R), Jane Corwin (R), Joseph Saladino (R), David McDonough (R), James Tedisco (R), Sean Hanna (R), Annie Rabbitt (R), Edward Ra (R), Tony Jordan (R), Daniel Losquadro (R), Michael Fitzpatrick (R) and Philip Palmesano (R).

      Seriously, just quit the Internet before you further embarrass yourself. That cop-out about “oh, the neocons are just Dixiecrats” isn’t helping, either.

      • DarthCoven says:

        damicatz won’t be happy until he’s turned our great nation into a libertarian bastion like Somalia.

  24. teqjack says:

    What would Ben “Poor Richard” Franklin think of having to not use a pseudonym? Or John “Marion” Wayne?

    Good intentions do not ensure good results.

    • MarkFL says:

      Or for that matter The Ramones. Joey was a liberal, Johnny a conservative, so it applies both ways.

  25. Warren - aka The Piddler on the Roof says:

    New York: The self-described center of the universe since 1664.

  26. madmallard says:

    Sponsors include:

    Republican Assemblyman Jim Conte (who assumes the viel of protecting people from cyber bullying)
    Republican Sen. Thomas O’Mara ( who brought the bill up)

    I can’t find any other names attached to it yet, but Jim’s press release says he joined other legislators…

    • drjayphd says:

      Listed all the co-sponsors above. 23 co-sponsors for the Assembly bill, all Republicans. None on the Senate one so far.

      • madmallard says:

        ah, thx, consumerist comment threading is horrible site design.

        your post should be a top post so it can be seen without thread diving

        • drjayphd says:

          Oh, that’s fine. I actually didn’t post that list until after your first comment. Took a while to go through and find the affiliations of everyone co-signing the proposal.

  27. Emily says:

    Don’t the New York State legislators have anything better to do? Did they tire of locking each other out of buildings?

  28. BorkBorkBork says:

    NY is trying to become the CA of the east. That will end well…

  29. AngryK9 says:

    “The rights of the individual will be protected, only so long as they agree with the state”

    In other words, some politician didn’t like some comment that someone made on his website and was mad because he couldn’t find out who it was.

  30. Professor59 says:

    We have to draw a line between “you are a poopyhead” and actual federal crimes, like inciting a riot or threatening someone’s life.

  31. u1itn0w2day says:

    I thought opinions and ideas where the point of online commenting and not the poster. Bad or inappropiate idea speaks to the poster anyway. Isn’t it free speech and not pay for a public opinion with personal information.

  32. u1itn0w2day says:

    So if somebody boos a player or team at a sporting event they must be identified? Or a public official is booed and hissed at public appearance or parade personal information must be given?

    Sounds like these politicians are more worried about competition for ideas and opinion rather than the actual content.

  33. Hartford says:

    “People in glass houses should not throw stones.”
    Perhaps when politicians start leading by example, showing some character instead of being characters, demonstrating what honesty and truth are and being diligent and respectful in their own discourse, perhaps others will follow their example. But, as long as they persist in doing underhanded, immoral and illegal things, hidden from the public eye, and using the media for the most outrageous mud slinging, perhaps they should remain quiet.

  34. Theword says:

    The state that is pushing to pass a law for adults to watch child pornography has problem with anonymous haters via comments. Go figure?

  35. spamtasticus says:

    Dear NY morons, go as Blizzard how this same move worked out for them in their World of Warcraft forum.

  36. u1itn0w2day says:

    From Drudge today as this comes out.




    If a politician can’t learn from history, understand their contituents or use common sense then that’s why they are politicians.

  37. SacraBos says:

    Worse than that -> “and confirms that his or her IP address, legal name, and home address are accurate”. This will result in two things, depending on how you read the law:

    1) The “anonymous” poster can make up a name/address and ‘confirm’ it – and make the law useless
    2) The web site operator is required to confirm accuracy of name/address for EVERYONE. Which will likely mean ‘no one’. So any request to remove any comment, ‘anonymous’ or not, will result in the comment being removed.

    The result of this will likely be:

    3) Web sites will no longer be hosted or operated in New York, giving an additional reason for businesses to leave the state.

  38. central_ny_dude says:

    Once again, I am ashamed to admit where I live. We aren’t all like this, really! NYS is full of idiots. While not being one of them, I believe that the idiots here outnumber those of us with some sense of reason and rational thought left.
    I doubt this will reach its end goal, unless good ol Chuck Schumer ends up supporting it. Then, I think I will be forced to relocate.
    I hear Texas is pretty good….