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  1. #1
    MisterK's Avatar
    MisterK is offline Monkey Man
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    Jersey Bill Aims To Put Real Names Behind Internet Posts....

    Jersey Bill Aims To Put Real Names Behind Internet Posts....
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    Bill aims to put names on posts
    Posted by the Asbury Park Press on 02/26/06
    BY BILL BOWMAN
    STAFF WRITER
    A Somerset County assemblyman's proposal to require Internet forum operators to register their users' real names and addresses, or face liability for any defamatory posts, could run into a few hurdles, legal experts say.

    The U.S. Constitution, for one.

    "The constitutional right to freedom of speech includes the right to anonymous speech, as the U.S. Supreme Court has long recognized," said Ed Barocas, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey.

    The bill's sponsor, Assemblyman Peter Biondi, R-Somerset, said he just wants to "return a little civility to the Internet."

    The bill, A-1327, would mandate, at the least, that all users of Internet forums register their real names and addresses with the forum's operator and, at best, that they use their real name when posting rather than screen aliases.

    That information would have to be readily available for anyone who felt they had been "damaged" by a posting, according to the bill. Forum operators that do not have such a policy would be liable for any damages awarded as a result of a post.

    Biondi said current law requires a court order to obtain the name of a poster, a process that could be expensive and daunting.

    The assemblyman admitted that his purpose in proposing the legislation isn't completely altruistic. He said that he has been the subject of some nasty posts in the past.

    "You can disagree, but you don't have to be disrespectful, you don't have to be disagreeable," he said. "The anonymity, in my opinion, allows them to take liberties that they wouldn't do if their name was there."

    But, legal experts say, anonymous speech is protected.

    "Since the founding of this country, there has been a well-recognized right to speak anonymously," said Kurt Opsahl, staff attorney for the Electronic Freedom Foundation. "The Federalist Papers were perhaps the first example of that in our Republic. Since then, it has been repeatedly upheld by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has held that anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority, and it exemplifies the purpose of the First Amendment to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation at the hands of an intolerant society."

    Beyond that, Opsahl and Barocas said, there is federal law on the books that already indemnifies forum operators from any liability from what their users post.

    "Section 230 of the Communication Decency Act of 1996 made clear that interactive computer services could not be held liable as publishers or speakers of content posted by third parties," Opsahl said. "It also provides that no cause of action may be brought, and no liability may be imposed under any state or local law that is inconsistent with the section. And what he proposes is a state law that is inconsistent with that section."

    Barocas said his group defended a student who had been punished by his school for the postings made by other students on a Web site criticizing his school.

    "A federal district court held that the school improperly acted by punishing the student who hosted the site for the statements of others placed in the guest book," he said.

    Still, there are some users who do not mind attaching their names to their posts.

    Hillsborough resident Christian Jensen is one of the three forum users noted by Biondi who post with their real names. Jensen said he — and his wife, a former township committeewoman — decided to use their names because they want people to know their opinions are theirs.

    "If I'm entering into a political discussion or just a general discussion, I want people to know who I am and who they are speaking with," he said. "I'm not going to change my opinions and views regardless if I'm talking to someone's pseudonym or their real name."

    Biondi said he's certain his bill will come under attack by civil libertarians. But he remains undaunted.

    "I think it will make the entire Internet more civil," he said. "Why should you put something up you're not proud of, or you don't believe in, or is a lie?"

    The bill is currently before the Assembly's Telecommunications and Utilities Committee. Biondi said he has not yet spoken to his colleagues about it, and has no co-sponsors.
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  2. #2
    StanSwitek's Avatar
    StanSwitek is offline Corporal
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    I remember my days in alt.law-enforcement. A fair number of the kooks posted under their real names, because they were already crazy. And they were not civil at all.

  3. #3
    Terminator's Avatar
    Terminator is offline BANNED
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    This is a bad idea!

  4. #4
    MountainCop Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by Terminator
    This is a bad idea!
    Extremely.

    But on the other side, I REALLY don't want everyone on LEF coming over to my house and raiding my booze closet!

    Ah... Laphroaig...

  5. #5
    TXCharlie's Avatar
    TXCharlie is offline Former & Future Reserve Officer
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    This sounds like a bill written by lawyers, for lawyers.

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  6. #6
    Jay7376's Avatar
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    Good luck with enforcing that one.
    I'm a PUBLIC SERVANT, so I'm not permitted to use my own judgement in any way.

  7. #7
    Virginian's Avatar
    Virginian is offline Major
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    I'd have to legally change my name to Anonymous User just to piss people off

 

 

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