Tuesday, March 7, 2006

Anonymous Posting

Look, sometimes you just have to steal other people's stuff. Today, I want to tell you about a stupid piece of proposed legislation in NJ, but Juan Melli's already wrote it up so pretty, why not just let you see his words? No reason! I thought not. I really should have asked him first. Good thing I'm not making money off of this. Right. On to Melli's post:

Biondi Wants to Ban Anonymous Online Speech
by: jmelli
March 06, 2006 at 18:26:39 EST
Assemblyman Peter Biondi (R-Somerset) has introduced a bill (A-1327) that if passed would: 1. Require that every user of this site provide us with their real name and address. 2. Require us to turn over this information to anyone who claims to have had "false or defamatory" information posted about them. 3. Make us liable for any damages if we don't follow the measures in the bill.

There's one small problem: The NJ Supreme Court ruled that banning anonymous online speech is unconstitutional.

This is as ridiculous as it gets, but it displays the total disconnect that many elected officials have with the internet as a medium for speech. The US Supreme Court ruled in Talley v. California (1960) that anonymous postings of pamphlets is legal. Like pamphlets, websites like Blue Jersey are just a communications device, but it's feared because it's so democratic and often uncontrollable. Perhaps people who support these measures have something to hide and would rather it not come out during campaign season.

Assuming the bill were somehow enforceable and that it managed to pass, it would require us at Blue Jersey to spend money to verify the identity of every single person that posts here (currently 377 users). Otherwise, we would be liable for damages. That measure alone is enough to shut down almost all forums and community blogs - the costs would be prohibitive. It's a little more indirect than Chinese-style censorship, but the end result is the same.

Congratulations Mr Biondi: You're the winner of today's Worst Legislation Award!

So yes, that's what I think, too. Poor judgement shown, here, "road to Hell" and all.

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