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Kentucky law prohibits anonymous posts online March 9, 2008

Posted 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.



1. Rich Bowen - March 9, 2008

I will henceforth post under my real name.

–Tim Couch

2. Matsu - March 9, 2008

Funny. Very, very funny.

In that same spirit we can just substitute the name “anonymous” with “Tim Couch.”

3. Tim Couch - March 14, 2008

Don’t listen to anyone from Harlan, Clay or Leslie Counties. What were you thinking?

4. Moose - March 14, 2008

I sent a note to
and filled out the form for Tim Couch

Here is what I said to them both…

============== concerning ========================
HB 775 (BR 1943) – T. Couch, J. Higdon
AN ACT relating to information technology.
Create new sections of KRS Chapter 369 to establish definitions
relating to Internet Web sites, blogs, or message boards; require
registration prior to posting information to these interactive
services; identify persons, businesses, or entities that post
information to these interactive services; establish penalty

Mar 4-introduced in House
Mar 6-to Labor & Industry (H)

Please quit showing yourself to be less than adequate. Cancel this
before someone takes you serious. It can’t pass, it won’t pass, it is
illegal from a federal stand point.

Find something constructive to do instead of this.

David Pitts

5. Kentucky House Bill 775 « Matsu’s World: The One Less Traveled - March 18, 2008

[…] News, News and politics, Technology, Web, Weblog. trackback Yes, the crazy idea I wrote about here, the one proposed by Representative Tim Couch, is moving through the state’s political […]

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