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Kentucky Representative Tim Couch filed a bill this week to make anonymous posting online illegal.
The bill would require anyone who contributes to a website to register their real name, address and e-mail address with that site.
Their full name would be used anytime a comment is posted.
If the bill becomes law, the website operator would have to pay if someone was allowed to post anonymously on their site. The fine would be five-hundred dollars for a first offense and one-thousand dollars..
Jon Fleischaker, a Louisville attorney who represents the Kentucky Press Association, said such a law would be unconstitutional.
Besides running afoul of free speech guarantees in the First Amendment, it violates a federal law that bans states from regulating the Internet, he said. "You have a right to publish without telling people who you are," he said.
Under House Bill 775, Web site operators would be responsible for enforcing the policy and could be fined $500 for the first offense and $1,000 for each subsequent offense.
Fleischaker said it's become routine for legislators to sponsor bills at odds with the First Amendment. "Every session there are always issues where legislators try to bite off more than they can chew," he said.
Earlier in this session, Rep. Jim Gooch, D-Providence, filed a bill that would require cartoonists and editorial page writers to register as lobbyists. Among other things, that would ban them from the Senate and House floors, where other media members are permitted.
House Speaker Jody Richards said neither bill is likely to win passage.
The 'net is alive with buzz about a new bill signed into law by President Bush that could see certain forms of harassment online turned into criminal behaviors. The bill, dubbed the Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act of 2005, addresses a number of major issues, but online forms of harassment are addressed in a tiny section of the bill that seeks to address "cyberstalking."
So far as I can tell, the story originated with this report at News.com by Declan McCullagh, who commonly covers the intersecting points of technology and law and/or politics. The story opens with some remarkable claims:
It's no joke. Last Thursday, President Bush signed into law a prohibition on posting annoying Web messages or sending annoying e-mail messages without disclosing your true identity.
As you would expect, eyebrows across the country were raised at the prospect of good old fashioned Internet trolling and flaming becoming criminal (at least in the US), with a maximum penalty being two years in jail. Chances are, if you've read about this new law, you've read about how it criminalizes harassment online done under a false or anonymous identity. You've probably also read that this will make blogging, forum posting, and using USENET (among other things) far more dangerous because it would now be "illegal to annoy" someone, and whatnot.
Originally posted by dgtempe
I better end it right here.
Originally posted by TrueAmerican
You're welcome. It's funny, right after reading the initial story, I thought to myself, "Betcha this guy is a republican." Sure enough.
Originally posted by InSpiteOf
Even if this bill passed, the application of it would be pretty hard. All a forum has to do to escape this is just move hosting or server locations to outside the US. Which ultimately, would mean less tax money for the US.
Originally posted by InSpiteOf
I think an important question to ask is, why is this bill being presented? Who does it serve and to what end?
Originally posted by kerontehe
...The confidentiality of your political voting would seem a next logical step and the same arguments pro and con would seem to apply.
Though my pride tells me I would be glad to identify myself and defend my right to express myself, I am not naive enough to think that possible reprisals against myself or my family would not inhibit my exercise of my rights.
I have noticed that many local papers will not publish citizen editorial letters without being identified by name. In small communities like mine that is an effective deterrent to expression that has been accepted practice for years.