Saturday, May 26, 2012

New York State Legislators Attempt To Ban Anonymous Online Commenting

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." - The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, December 15, 1791

We occasionally field some gripes here at The Tattler about anonymous commenting. Oftentimes by people posting their complaints about anonymity in our comments section anonymously. The late and apparently forgotten "Lady Elizabeth Wistar" comes to mind. A rather bizarre campaign-time attempt at opposition silencing that didn't quite work out as some folks had hoped.

And I have taken some heat over the last 4 or so years on this issue. Which is great as far as I am concerned because it has helped bring more attention to this site. Something that resulted in many becoming aware that they could post anonymously here, which apparently is quite popular in Sierra Madre. If you question that, just compare the amount of comments we receive here to those over on the Sierra Madre Patch. A site where they require you to surrender your personal information before they will allow you to express your opinions.

So whatever the rationale, this is pretty much a wasted effort as far as I am concerned. I enthusiastically support the right of anyone to express themselves in whatever way they see fit. Anonymously, pseudoanonymously, with umlauts and flourishes, or even wearing a funny hat if that is your desire. Who am I to tell you what you can and cannot do or say? Keep it clean, leave out the personal threats, and I'm cool with it. And I am hardly alone on this one. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is pretty much down with the concept, as is the United States Supreme Court.

But there are those who do disagree, and in the State of New York there is a group of legislators that would like to make it legally mandatory for the likes of me to check your ID before allowing you to post. This from Wired.com (click here):

New York legislation would ban anonymous online speech - Did you hear the one about New York state lawmakers who forgot about the First Amendment in the name of combating cyberbullying and "baseless political attacks?"

Proposed legislation in both chambers would require New York-based websites, such as blogs and newspapers, 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."

No votes on the measures have been taken. But unless the First Amendment is repealed, they stand no chance of surviving any constitutional scrutiny even if they were approved.

Had the internet been around in the late 1700s, perhaps the anonymously written Federalist Papers would have had to be taken down unless Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay revealed themselves.

"This statute would essentially destroy the ability to speak anonymously online on sites in New York," said Kevin Bankston, a staff attorney with the Center for Democracy and Technology. He added that the legislation provides a "heckler's veto to anybody who disagrees with or doesn't like what an anonymous poster said."

The Daily Caller also has an article about this situation up on their website. They took their inquiries all the way out here to UCLA (click here).

UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh told The Daily Caller that the bill is "clearly unconstitutional."

"The Supreme Court has held for 50 years that anonymous speech is protected," explained Volokh, pointing to the 1960 case Talley v. California. "This kind of breach of anonymity on demand is just not constitutional."

"I would love to hear from these legislators ... Presumably at least one of them should be able to speak to the constitutional objections to the statute," Volokh added.

A little something to contemplate this Memorial Day weekend. The enemies of the freedoms so many fought and died to protect are not always external ones.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

43 comments:

  1. Let me be the first ...

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  2. Those who attempt to silence the people do so at their own peril. These legislators are in the process of becoming a national laughingstock.

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  3. How can we retaliate against our enemies if we don't have their names and addresses?

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  4. I am completely and irrevocably against anonymous posting.

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  5. Every new law is another lost freedom.

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    Replies
    1. This is one pf the dumbest statements ever put to binary!!!

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  6. Here's my anonymous opinion:

    (1) The bill won't make it out of committee; but if it does
    (2) won't pass the Assembly; but if it does
    (3) won't pass the Senate; but if it does
    (4) will be vetoed by the Governor; but if it isn't
    (5) will be challenged in court on the first day it's effective;
    (6) causing the assigned trial court judge to salivate with the notion that his or her decision striking it down will greatly help his or her chances for elevation to an appellate court;
    (7) which will be an overblown assessment by the judge because striking down such a law brought by a couple of brainless legislators is indeed a no brainer.

    Anonymous

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    1. Great post 7:51!

      And here's a fine example. I see a thoughtful, knowledgable and witty contribution to this article - don't care who wrote it.

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    2. Right On, Anon!

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  7. What would the penalty be for anonymous posting? Would it be a misdemeanor or a felony? In some countries inappropriate commentary can result in the death penalty. Is America ready to go that extra mile to silence its more inconvenient citizens?

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  8. You wonder why these legislators propose all these dead ended pieces of legislature that takes so much time and energy out of their busy schedule.

    Wait, I know the answer: they have no real job

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  9. I am a long time (since the 90's) poster on two horseracing boards, one stabled at Del Mar, Ca. and the other in NYC.
    Most of us on these boards post under our "screen name". We may send private messages to others via the website.
    The owner of the website, in the case of Del Mar, is a Del Mar official, who monitors the board along with a couple of other trusted members.
    She is very strict as to the rules, and they are the same rules Crawford enforces here on the Tattler.
    In the case of the board in New York, a very nice young man owns and manages the website, along with a few trusted monitors. Same rules apply.
    Cyber bullies and those who use insane rants, advertise stuff or make threats are deleted and often banned.
    Del Mar board obviously promotes Del Mar racing. The New York board has thousands of members and "Mike" the owner does take ads, which he should do for his time and effort.
    Most long time members of these boards know who others are, the NY board meets every summer at Saratoga for a big 2 or 3 day party. People on the board from all over the country and Canada attend.
    Del Mar Fan Forum people often get together on big Del Mar days and meet at Santa Anita and Hollywood Park. Many have become personal friends of John and I.

    John Crawford does NOT make a profit on this board. His monitors, reporters and researchers are NOT paid by anyone. They are interested activists in this community and other communities in So. California.

    I sure hope this "yet another" intrusion by government bullies does not happen.
    The internet should be a community of free speech.

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  10. Bad behaviour begets new laws.

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    1. For some of those making the laws anything contrary to their interests is bad behavior.

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    2. The internet is just people, good and bad. The crimes are there, the protections need to be there, the punishments need to be there - same old, same old. And God knows, every parent needs to scrupulously monitor where their kids are online. But to do away with anonymity is reaching too far, and I don't think it's necessary. People are joking about it, but I'll bet you there are some techies that could ID me and any other poster on this board within minutes.

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    3. 9:23, more like seconds.

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  11. Check who makes large contributions to those legislators and you'll likely find the reason for the bill.

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  12. Maybe we should be required to wear name tags in public, too.

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    1. Forehead bar codes that you would need to press to your computer screen before being allowed to post a comment.

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  13. Maybe it should be mandatory that our webcams send our photos to blogs and newspapers when we comment, or maybe stream video to the owners of every website we visit!

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    1. Nobody is anonymous.
      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/24/homeland-security-manual_n_1299908.html

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    2. I am far more leery of advertising corporations than I am of Homeland Security.

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  14. A good example of why people should be allowed to post anonymous on this board:
    The Sierra Madre school parents may freely state their objections to what the PSUD is doing to them and their kids and us taxpayers.
    If they had to give their names, some may be fearful of intimidation by board members or their interests and take it out on their kids.
    I know of one family in which this is the case. Some people are very bold and out front, bravely post their own names, others are fearful to do so.
    I can see the case for both of these positions.

    Another would be someone who wishes to be a "whisleblower", as has happened often here on the Tattler. These people dare not be known publically for fear of retaliation by bad people....yes, even here in Sierra Madre, there are some very bad people. Minority, yes of course, but they do plenty of damage to us all.
    This board would die out if we were forced to identify ourselves, especially here in Sierra Madre.

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    1. @8:58- good point.
      I respect those that have the moxie to show their faces and not hide behind anonymity. Still, I am disgusted by those that use the power they have in hiding in anonymity. It gives them the "courage" to bully and throw stones at those who are transparent. That is the flaw.
      I also believe that in Sierra Madre many would be afraid of being outcasts for "airing" dirty Sierra Madre linens- but it needs to be put out there.
      At a SM school site council meeting this year, such complaints were made about certain families going to the newspapers and dragging the school in the mud. The preference was that the ugly stories be hidden and forgotten, like the child.
      Sierra madre is like Lumberton in Lynch's Blue Velvet.........all nice and pretty on the outside, but once you start digging under the facade there's a whole lot of darkness underneath.
      Thank you John Crawford for having the moxie to put it out there, but for also allowing us to maintain our "privacy".

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  15. What I like best about anonymous posting is that it focuses 100% of a reader's attention on the ideas being discussed, not the person discussing them.

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    1. There are many people in Sierra Madre who would prefer to focus on personalities rather than the truth.

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    2. Lady Wistar is a prime example of why there shouldn't be "anonymous" posting. Maybe cyberbullies should be banned unless they produce their info?

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    3. Lady Wistar was the source of a lot of amusement. Why change anything? In person whoever it was wouldn't have been 1/10 as comical.

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    4. Lady or Lad Whatever doesn't need to be identified. The arrogance and ignorance come through quite clearly.

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    5. Sorry, but "Wistar's" campaign against Crawford was anything but amusing.

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    6. Without anonymous people blowing the whistle on public people and government, you would be living in a world with layers of hidden bureaucracy, a few cases in point.
      Watergate
      John Edwards
      Bill Clinton
      Edward Kennedy
      the American Revolution
      I could go on and on
      If people are hiding because they have "mean" things to say,
      I would have to say, just look at our political figures who have lies just rolling off of their tongues, and nobody bats an eye. A few more very recent presidents come to mind also.
      It takes the decernment of a 10 year old to see whether you believe everything you hear. Just read the editoral giants like Hail Hamilton, and her boss lady editor in chief.
      It figures something like this would come from the Democratic majority in New York. A true bastion of constitutional defenders.

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    7. Citizen journalists are important. Think of our town. Where would you turn to get information if this site wasn't around any more?

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    8. 10:57: The wired.com link article refers to 2 Republicans and the Daily Caller link article says that most of the sponsors are Republicans, so why would you anonymously make up a claim that it comes from Democrats?

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    9. Good catch, 6:49.

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    10. Steve, how could you deliberately mislead us? I am so disappointed.

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    11. Steve seems to be veracity challenged.

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  16. the irony of the picture posted requiring a permit to assemble would be humorous, if it was such a sham.

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  17. A bunch of dumb crooked pols want to shut up bloggers and their anonymous commenters? Now there is a surprise!

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  18. The powerful (monied) have no problem getting their acolytes on the Supreme Court to declare that money is speech (when it actually is an amplifier of speech), so it's really not surprising that they'll try to find new ways to prevent those without money from speaking. They'll say that people are still free to speak as long as they disclose their names, but they won't mention that they (the powerful) will be free to fire or not hire those whose speech they don't like.

    In a way, it's a new form of McCarthyism. Only this time the name you're being forced to name is your own.

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    1. Live as much of your life as possible off the grid. Keep Edison from putting one of their invasive "smart meters" on your home. Don't tell the city you're holding a flea market in your driveway so they can't take a big chunk of the proceeds from you. Don't use your name when you discuss issues on a public forum so some big brother corporate facebookish databank can't blacklist you. And most of all, tell the truth to power. About everything these people touch. It drives them crazy.

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    2. Might add,...stay off Facebook, it's easily monitored.

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