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Should Anonymous Comments Be Banned?

A NYS bill sponosred by Assemblyman Dean Murray is looking to stop websites from publishing unidentified responses.

A new bill in Albany is looking to combat cyber bullying by prohibiting Internet users from posting anonymous slanderous comments.

The Internet Protection Act, sponsored by Assemblyman Dean Murray (R-East Patchogue) and Senator Thomas O'Mara (R-Big Flats), would force a website administrator 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," upon request. According to the bill, a website would either have to provide a phone number or email address where users could request that false, anonymous comments be removed from the site unless the commenter identify him or herself.

In an age where a simple Google search can detail a person’s entire background, anonymous comments can be a major concern for users. Conte and other supporters of the bill argue that anonymous statements, especially false ones, can essentially destroy an individual’s reputation without the ability to hold the commenter accountable for his or her statements.

Murray explained that the act would not eliminate anonymous comments entirely, but would give victims of personal attacks the ability to challenge accusations.

Assemblyman Jim Conte (R-Huntington Station) expressed his support for the bill, saying that it"turns the spotlight on cyber-bullies by forcing them to reveal their identity or have their post removed."

The bill would also forbid users to post anonymous criticisms of businesses, which Conte said, would cut down on competitors posting negative or false reviews of a rival business.

Conte and Murray both admitted to being cyber-bullied through anonyomous political attacks.

The main criticism of the Internet Protection Act is that it could hinder freedom of speech rights under the First Amendment.  

“This statute would essentially destroy the ability to speak anonymously online on sites in New York,” Kevin Bankston, a staff attorney with the Center for Democracy and Technology, told Wired. He said the bill allows a “heckler’s veto to anybody who disagrees with or doesn’t like what an anonymous poster said.”

While the U.S. Constitution prohibits states and Congress from abridging free speech, it does not detail specifics about anonymous statements, nor online comments.

Do you think anonymous commenting should be banned?

*Clarifications have been made to this article. An earlier version did not specify that removal of anonymous comments would be based on requests.

jared June 01, 2012 at 07:34 PM
LMAO I administrate a website and this is unenforceable (i don't allow annoymous posts, but i run a music review site so i really only get serious readers/posters anyway). but my problem lies that as a systems administrator, Now I need to spend even more time coding extra "email" forums to provide another table to hold data in my MYSQL database. which honestly, someone can LIE about their email address anyway and still post. how are you going to enforce this..... you can't, its as simple as that. The internet is the wild west, and honestly , oh and what popular websites allow anonymous posts these days...? lol
James Smith June 01, 2012 at 09:20 PM
The fact that the Assemblyman is even replying to a comment section and getting bent out of shape over comments that people post on a local patch article, shows that he buckles under the heat of criticism and actually tries a law to silence his critics while claiming that it's "All About the Children" or "Protecting Victims". The more popular you get the more criticism you will face. How many people posted these "untruths" about Obama being a terrorist, Muslim that hates America or that he is not a US Citizen etc... Has it affected his career? Lamar Smith took a barrage of nasty comments regarding SOPA and he just won the primary by a landslide. Mr. Murray, you need to follow in their footsteps and rise above such petty endeavors.
James Smith June 01, 2012 at 09:23 PM
Assemblyman Murray, sir, please spare me your crocodile tears. First of all, as I said before, where do you see in ANY news comment section a teenager being bullied by his or her classmates or a post about a 14 year old girl being pregnant. Such a statement would not last if it even existed in those type of forums by means of moderation. Comment sections are exactly what they are intended to be - Comments. They are not news articles, or even op-eds. People have a right to express themselves clearly without fear of censorship or reprisal from powerful people such as yourself. When I go to a restaurant for a meal and I am dissatisfied with the service, am I not allowed to make a public statement so that other people can decide whether to take my review seriously or not? Without the protection of anonymity, people will be afraid to speak up and expose the truth when they have to worry about fear of a lawsuit or facing a personal vendetta. Especially when a business can be tied in with public officials, or even worse, organized crime. Not only will the whistleblower be in danger but also their livelihoods and family. With all due respect Assemblyman, you have been exonerated from those assertions about yourself so you shouldn't have to worry about people posting "comments" about it on online news sites. You made the decision to become a public figure and that's a sacrifice you need to make, sir to uphold the 1st Amendment.
James Smith June 01, 2012 at 10:10 PM
There are some other excerpts from your reply that just don't hold water. If somebody is making rumors about a 14 year old girl being pregnant, that is grounds for a lawsuit against site administrator itself, so I am sure that they would have no problems taking the comments down. I also think that it is safe to say that a restaurant's business will hardly be affected over the comments from just one disgruntled patron (or other individual). If there are many, however, one may want to look into how that restaurant operates. If a restaurant gets many positive reviews, I personally as many others would take the negative reviews with a grain of salt. The teacher rumored to have inappropriate relations with their students, will not hold water in court or any with disciplinary actions on the teacher's part without the source being revealed. Again, the teacher can file a lawsuit against the site owners, and I am sure that they will be glad to oblige him or her with the removal of the offending comment if there is nothing to back it up. If you want a suggestion which I am doubtful that you will take, why not pass legislation that allows for an expedited subpoena against somebody making potentially damaging assertions on Social networks sites which is where cyber bullying actually occurs. You see there is already legal recourse to deal with these situations without having to pass legislation that would violate 1st amendment rights.
James Smith June 12, 2012 at 08:30 PM
Even with the supposed "tightening up" of the bill, it's still a violation of free speech. You would still have to hire an army of lawyers to prove that your statement against a powerful, politician corporation or politician is not "false". This bill was only designed to strangle the voice of the common citizen. No Amendment can fix it.

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