From Time Magazine:
Watching faceless online passerby troll bloggers or mock fellow scribblers can be a drag, but what if legislators’ answer to online ne’er-do-wells was to ban anonymous comments from websites entirely? That’s what the state of New York is planning to do in identical bills — S.6779 and A.8688 – proposed by the New York State Assembly that would “amend the civil rights law” in order to “[protect] a person’s right to know who is behind an anonymous internet posting.”
The bill would require a web administrator to “upon request 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.” By “web site,” the bill means just what it seems to: Any New York-based website, including “social networks, blogs forums, message boards or any other discussion site where people can hold conversations in the form of posted messages.”
S.6779 is dated March 21, 2012, and stipulates that it will take effect 90 days after becoming law — neither bill has been voted on yet.
Wired noticed the bills on Tuesday and immediately pointed out the disparity between the legislation’s tenets and the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which stipulates:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Good intentions or no, UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh tells The Daily Caller that the bill won’t pass Constitutional muster, referencing the Talley v. California case and noting that there’s already precedent for unmasking libelous commenters. “If you say something anonymously and it is libelous, I could go to court for an order to identify you,” he told TDC.