Two New York legislators have taken a page from the playbook of aspiring internet regulator Joe Lieberman by sponsoring a bill that would make the posting of anonymous comments illegal. The bill written by Republican State Senators Dean Murray and Thomas O’Mara states:
“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…name to the post and confirms that his…IP address, legal name and home address are accurate. All web site administrators shall have a contact number or e-mail address for such removal requests clearly visible in any sections where comments are posted.”
The stated purpose of the Act is “…to amend the civil rights law, in relation to protecting a person’s right to know who is behind an anonymous internet posting.” Apparently, it has now become a civil right to know what your neighbor thinks of Barack Obama, the United Nations, or Jerry’s House of Pancakes.
According to Murray and O’Mara, passage of the Act would “…cut down on cyberbullying, protect small businesses such as restaurants from unfounded, negative reviews and, naturally, protect politicians from baseless, derogatory attacks during campaign time.” As one wag added, “I’m sure that last concern is only an afterthought.”
The contempt displayed by the nation’s politicos for the constitutionally protected rights of the American public seems to increase with each passing year. Some believe pressure brought to bear by Tea Parties or the occasional primary upset of a longtime incumbent will sort out political hacks like Murray and O’Mara. But so arrogant are these self-important law makers that even decisions of the Supreme Court are blissfully ignored.
“Anonymous pamphlets, leaflets, brochures and even books have played an important role in the progress of mankind,” wrote Justice Hugo Black in 1960. Thirty five years later, the Court found unconstitutional an Ohio statute demanding campaign literature include the name and address of the individual issuing it.
“Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech…” Even if State Senators Murray and O’Mara should find sufficient, elected horse’s behinds to turn this asinine bill into law, it will not pass constitutional muster. Yet, self-serving politicians continue the assault; for as with so many constitutional rights and liberties, they find free speech a dangerous and inconvenient threat to their authority.
It has been noted that if this law had been in effect 230 years ago, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay “…would have been forced to disclose their real names…” on the Federalist Papers, perhaps preventing the works of “Publius” being written. But then Senators Murray and O’Mara would not have considered that much of a loss–certainly not as important as preventing the cyberbullying of Senators Murray and O’Mara!
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