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NJ Bill Would Prohibit Anonymous Posts on Forums 487

An anonymous reader writes "The New Jersey legislature is considering a bill that would require operators of public forums to collect users' legal names and addresses, and effectively disallow anonymous speech on online forums. This raises some serious issues, such as to what extent local and state governments can go in enacting and enforcing Internet legislation."
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NJ Bill Would Prohibit Anonymous Posts on Forums

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  • by Deep Fried Geekboy ( 807607 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @03:13PM (#14860314)
    of America flushing itself down the toilet of total fucking irrelevance.

    I was skiing this week with a friend of mine who manages a half-billion dollar investment fund. His skepticism about the US was withering. It will not be very long before the world economy interprets America, with its spaghetti of ludicrous, paranoiac IT legislation, DMCA bullshit and general hostility towards 'the other', as damage, and routes around it.

    Maybe the last person in the US with a job which does not involve burgers could turn out the lights.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 06, 2006 @03:14PM (#14860327)
    That sounds like something a terrist would say!
  • At the same time.... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Bob_Robertson ( 454888 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @03:18PM (#14860368) Homepage
    Might want to remind the New Jersey legislature that "The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."

    At least with the First Amendment, they can get out of it by saying "It says "CONGRESS" shall make no law, not New Jersey."
  • Re:Brrrrrrr (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @03:20PM (#14860391) Journal
    I RTF Bill and it'll get slapped down by the courts.

    The bill does not define "reasonable" and it does not require a court to find that information posted is "false or defamatory".

    And "false" information is not necessarily defamatory. Maybe if the bill said "False and defamatory" it'd stand a chance, because truth is an affirmative defense against charges of libel/slander.

    I can scream defamation/libel at the top of my lungs and it doesn't matter for shit until a Judge says "yea, that was libel."

    This Bill is poorly written from a legal standpoint, not just in it's comprehension of the internet.
  • two points. (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 06, 2006 @03:22PM (#14860415)
    1. Misleading headline.
    Every Slashdot user who read that headline probably thought immediatley of "anonymous coward" posts on Slashdot -- but this isn't about posting without a handle, it's about posting without your legal name and address on file! I'm not logged in, to make a point about New Jersey (I just pointed my cantenna across the state line to NJ - good thing I live on the eighth floor), but if I were logged in, I would still be making an "anonymous post".

    2. ... collect users' legal names and addresses, and effectively disallow anonymous speech on online forums.
    I do not think this word means what the submitter thinks it means.
  • Is it just me ... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 06, 2006 @03:26PM (#14860466)
    Or are most of the state and federal elected officials pushing for a point of 'Violent Citizen Uprising' ???

    Granted this is at state level, and not federal, but when I see one 'asshat' politician thinking this is someway somehow 'representative of what their states people want', I think it is time for that politicians tenure* in office to be up.

    The 'day' anything like this EVER gets passed in the U.S. (state or federal), is a day I become a ghost on the Internet.

    So long 'Anonymous Coward'! I knew thee well ....

    /to lazy to see if its to late
  • by dada21 ( 163177 ) * <> on Monday March 06, 2006 @03:27PM (#14860476) Homepage Journal
    This is the problem with any structure of checks and balances -- there is no penalty for violating the oath to uphold a given constitution.

    How about an amendment to all the Constitutions with a 3 strikes and you're out law? If a law-maker votes for 3 bills that are later found to be unconstitutional, they're booted.

    It amazes me how much junk makes it past the various Supreme Courts, though. Sure, this law might get tossed, but how many more make it to the books?
  • by taustin ( 171655 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @03:42PM (#14860657) Homepage Journal
    Some users commit libel/slander, harass, break copyright law, etc. and law enforcement needs a way to be able to get these users.

    The same can be said of anonymous pamphlets. The same has been done with anonymous pamphlets.

    And yet, anonymous pamphlets have been very specifically ruled to be constititonally protected by the Supreme Court.

    The cops' "need" to find people does not supersede the people's right to free expression, even anonymously.
  • by cpt kangarooski ( 3773 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @03:50PM (#14860767) Homepage
    But the bill goes further than that. A forum admin is liable for slander on his board.

    As it happens, they're not, I doubt this bill could change that even if it became a law. 47 USC 230(c)(1) basically says that forums et al are not liable -- with regard to libel or slander, among other things -- for posts where the content was provided by someone else, generally the user who made the post.

    This federal law trumps state law.
  • Re:How to enforce it (Score:2, Interesting)

    by MadRocketScientist ( 792254 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @03:53PM (#14860795)
    Not exactly.
    Key points of the proposed bill:
    • You need to set up a registration system where users are required to use legitimate info. However, I don't see anything that states you have to verify the information provided
    • You must maintain a procedure to make this infomration available if a user posts false or defamatory information. You don't have to hand over the information if there's no proof of damages.

    So you're covered as long as you have a "registration required to post" setting. As resources are not readily available to give board operators the ability to validate any information submitted, this will be effectively unenforcable.
  • Re:Brrrrrrr (Score:5, Interesting)

    by larry bagina ( 561269 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @03:58PM (#14860865) Journal
    Back in the 90s, California passed a law requiring all gun owners to register their guns. Eventually, the supreme court decided that convicted felons were not required to register since to do so would violate their 5th amendments rights (they're not legally allowed to have guns; registering one would be an admission of guilt).

  • by Reziac ( 43301 ) * on Monday March 06, 2006 @04:04PM (#14860926) Homepage Journal
    The federal trump is all well and good, but what about the people who get dragged in front of NJ courts in the meantime? How long does it usually take for such wrongfully made state laws to be struck down?

  • Re:Frist post (Score:5, Interesting)

    by GoodOmens ( 904827 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @05:00PM (#14861537) Homepage
    Sounds like a direct attack on Wikipedia.
  • by Tripledub ( 951046 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @05:03PM (#14861574) Homepage
    Oh Wait! There won't be any! Seriously how can this be enforced? Its not like the person running the forums has much control where they are hosted anymore. I host many forums. All of them in another state. Now how can a state I don't pay taxes in impose its will on me?
  • by ElboRuum ( 946542 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @05:04PM (#14861589)
    1. Private information is power and control over those individuals to whom that information directly applies.

    2. All private information relinquished to the public domain will be used and for whatever purpose and at whatever time as the collector sees fit. The likelihood of that information being used increases the more ardently the collector states that it will not be used. The likelihood of that information being used for nefarious or damaging purposes increases the more ardently the collector states that it will not be used for nefarious or damaging purposes.

    3. Private information made public may be rendered inaccurate or irrelevant (by moving, changing phone number, etc.) but may never be assumed to be destroyed.

    With these three rules in hand, it is easy to see why governmental authority wishes to have more of your personally identifiable information available at every point where anonymity might be possible: Censure and threat. There is no easier way to make people step and fetch than if you intimate that their words may be used against them. There is no better way to coerce rebellious elements of the society into cowed silence than by taking away their anonymous avenues to lambasting the status quo. Of course, most people don't realize that this sort of law won't protect politicians from remarks such as these. It is a long established precedent that public figures, especially those in the elected service to the people are not protected equally from libel or slanderous speech as private citizens.
  • by jbolden ( 176878 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @05:21PM (#14861753) Homepage
    The IRS has very strict rules where they won't use information an your tax forms for any other law enforcement purpose. You can put "$5000 income from assassination of John Smith, 124 main street..." and the only thing IRS cares about is that you are reporting all the income and benefits you got for the hit.
  • by diggum ( 769740 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @05:27PM (#14861811) Homepage
    I'd be more willing to listen to proposals such as this were the same transparency policies applied to the government as well. Every law, every bill, every proposal, every act accompanied by irrefutable evidence as to who was involved, and when. "National secrets? Sorry, Uncle Sam. If YOU get to keep secrets from your citizens, we get to keep secrets, too. What do I have to hide? Well, if YOU'RE not breaking the law, either, what are you hiding? See? You just made my point for me. There are secrets worth keeping that have nothing to do with hiding criminal activity." And then I woke up from my little nap.
  • Re:Frist post (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 06, 2006 @08:50PM (#14863236)
    new jersey bill is a direct violation of section 230 ( keeps webhosts and bloggers immune from this ) sc_sec_47_00000230----000-.html []


    No cause of action may be brought and no liability may be imposed under any State or local law that is inconsistent with this section.

  • Re:Frist post (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hhlost ( 757118 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @09:21PM (#14863374)
    Mod parent up. It's also a violation, IMHO, of the First, Fourth (right to privacy) and 14th Ammendmants to the Constitution, and the Commerce Clause (Article I, Section 8, Clause 3). Furthermore, how would New Jersey inforce this? Would it apply only to sites hosted in Jersey? Companies and/or individuals based in New Jersey? If this passes (which it won't) then there will be a huge public outcry. Maybe their intention is to help define the legal jurisdiction of the Internet, setting up more control for the Feds. That's not good.
  • by Goldenhawk ( 242867 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @09:54PM (#14863578) Homepage
    I propose "Brandon's Law"...

    As an online discussion of anything privacy-related grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving RIAA or the MPAA approaches 1.

    See also Godwin's Law []...
  • Re:Frist post (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Omaze ( 952134 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @10:18PM (#14863734) Journal
    According to the real Constitution state laws are supposed to supersede federal laws. Not that this has ever stopped the feds from being draconian in the past but it is a point.
  • by ModernGeek ( 601932 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @10:24PM (#14863777)
    I know when my mom was driving through NJ with me, she couldn't get over and was forced into the EZ Pass lane. She just sat there stopped, and everyone was honking at her, so she went through. When we get back home, the Turnpike Authority (or something of that nature) sent us a ticket for $50 or something like that. She sent a check for $0.35, and they cashed it, and she never heard from them again. I am wondering what they could possibly do if you never paid it and never went back to New Jersey again though? Would you still be arrested because of a bench warrant 30 years old if you were to return later on?
  • Re:Frist post (Score:3, Interesting)

    by penix1 ( 722987 ) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @12:03AM (#14864254) Homepage
    "According to the real Constitution state laws are supposed to supersede federal laws. Not that this has ever stopped the feds from being draconian in the past but it is a point."

    Until State law contradicts the Constitution. That is when Federal law trumps.

  • by Tony ( 765 ) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @12:56AM (#14864465) Journal
    By today's definitions, the founding fathers of the USA would have been terrorists, or at the least, insurgents. This legislation is designed to suppress anonyous writing, which may cause people to Think Too Much, which is going to be outlawed soon.

    But, if you think about it, these folks are trying to help protect us. The terrorists hate us because of our freedoms. So, take away the freedoms, you take away the reason for the terrorists to hate us. You take away their reason to be terrorists.

    All this is part of the brilliant War On Terror.
  • Re:Brrrrrrr (Score:3, Interesting)

    by instarx ( 615765 ) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @01:19AM (#14864550)
    Essentialy it's to stop them from being tried for non-registration in addition to possession of an illegal firearm.

    No, its because the law violated the constitutional protection against self-incrimination.
  • Re:Frist post (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Omaze ( 952134 ) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @08:21AM (#14865518) Journal
    I guess I'm not seeing how this NJ bill would be a violation of the Constitution since it's not being passed by Congress.

When a fellow says, "It ain't the money but the principle of the thing," it's the money. -- Kim Hubbard