Kentucky law prohibits anonymous posts online March 9, 2008Posted by Matsu in News and politics, Uncategorized, Web, Weblog.
Last week I saw this news report about a law proposed by Tim Couch, a Kentucky state representative, to make it illegal to make anonymous posts on websites. The reasoning is that teenagers are saying things online that are not true about other people. If they couldn’t do post anonymously then they could be held accountable for what they write. Only, how does this play out in other situations? Not very well.
I understand the concerns over web-based bullying and preventing teenagers from saying mean and untrue things about people in their school, but will a law stop that? And, what happens to discussion websites where people never use their real name (the new law requires that a person always disclose their real name online)? I’ll tell you what it will do, it will kill discussion. Also, there is the small problem of jurisdiction and trying to figure out where the law applies on the Internet and how to enforce it online when so many (almost all) Web 2.0 websites allow anonymous posts.
The Louisville Courier-Journal article said:
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.
Oh, and here’s the kicker… if there is a violation the website operator will have to pay a fine. I use WordPress.com to host this blog site. Does that mean that the WordPress operators will have to pay the fine if they allow anonymous posts? Or, would I have to pay? I am not technically the operator, am I? I think of myself as a blog author since I don’t run the servers or software. However you look at this, the law as proposed does not seem to be very well thought out.
To read more about it you should visit this post at the Kentucky Democrat blog.
Update: Upon further research I’ve discovered that 2 years ago (almost to the day), a New Jersey State Assemblyman (Peter J. Biondi) proposed the same thing. You can read all about that attempt at blocking anonymous postings in this CNET article.