New York Assembly Seeks to Restrict Anonymous Free Speech on the Internet

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

Id.at357.    

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.

Comments/Questions: gdn@gdnlaw.com

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