Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?

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."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

NJ Bill Would Prohibit Anonymous Posts on Forums

Comments Filter:
  • Frist post (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 06, 2006 @03:07PM (#14860247)
    First post! (Soon to be illegal)
  • by Tackhead ( 54550 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @03:08PM (#14860255)
    > This raises some serious issues, such as to what extent local and state governments can go in enacting and enforcing Internet legislation.

    Assemblyman Peter J. Biondi: Come off it, Mr. Coward! You can't stand in front of the tanks in Tienanmen Square indefinitely! This law for the information superhighway has got to be built, and it's going to be built!

    Anonymous Coward: Why's it got to be built?

    Biondi: What do you mean "why"? It's a law! You've got to pass laws! You were quite entitled to make any suggestions or protests at the appropriate time, you know.

    Anonymous Coward: Appropriate time?! The first I knew about it was when you pre-filed Assembly Bill No. 1327, the cops showed up and they said they were ready to come and take me away!

    Biondi: Have you any idea how much damage the government would suffer if we just let the law roll straight over you?

    Anonymous Coward: No, how much?

    Biondi: None at all.

    Vogon: Apathetic bloody citizenry. I've no sympathy at all.

  • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @03:08PM (#14860261) Homepage
    "In other news, roads became congested today as a wave of trucks was seen hauling piles of servers across the New Jersey state line..."
  • Brrrrrrr (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Grrr ( 16449 ) <cgrrr@grr[ ]et ['r.n' in gap]> on Monday March 06, 2006 @03:08PM (#14860263) Homepage Journal
    An operator of an interactive computer service or an Internet service provider shall establish and maintain reasonable procedures to enable any person to request and obtain disclosure of the legal name and address of an information content provider who posts false or defamatory information about the person on a public forum website.

    Comes a vacuum, as posters retreat who aren't criminals but have reasonable fears of retribution, and a clear need for anonymity...

    <grrr />

    • 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.
      • 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).

      • Re:Brrrrrrr (Score:5, Funny)

        by lgw ( 121541 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @03:59PM (#14860873) Journal
        I can scream defamation/libel at the top of my lungs

        Actually, you can't scream libel no matter how hard you try, you can only scream slander. You have to write libel. Of course, you can scream "libel", but that not quite the same thing.
      • Re:Brrrrrrr (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Red Flayer ( 890720 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @04:12PM (#14861018) Journal
        "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."

        It can be false and defamatory without causing harm. Currently, the burden is on the person seeking the information to demonstrate that they suffered damages as a result of the information. This bill aims to circumvent that, so that no judge or panel of judges would have to be consulted.

        You can bet that the bill was intentionally worded poorly and vaguely -- it allows for:

        (1) Enforcement to be wide open to interpretation, so that it can be used by those in power or running for office effectively;
        (2) The court to establish the boundaries of the law after it has been passed, if it passes in current form (which, as you say, is highly unlikely).

        It's a common tactic in NJ -- write a bill that overreaches in scope, hope it gets through, and then allow the courts to restrict the law. You know, see what you can get away with. Also, by overreaching they establish a 'middle ground' which is what they wanted in the first place, and get credit for compromising to reach that middle ground.

        Biondi's a bit of a [insert slanderous term here], anyway -- . [state.nj.us]

        Of note, he sponsored a bill to extend implied consent to blood testing for illegal substances -- and allow reasonable force to get that test if the suspect was involved in an accident causing serious bodily harm.
    • Re:Brrrrrrr (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Cl1mh4224rd ( 265427 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @05:31PM (#14861852)
      Comes a vacuum, as posters retreat who aren't criminals but have reasonable fears of retribution, and a clear need for anonymity...
      I don't know... People might actually have to start actively fighting for their rights instead of talking about fighting for their rights.

      I think it's already a sad state of affairs when people think they have to fight for anonymity as a right, as if it's the only way they think they can speak freely.
  • by dada21 ( 163177 ) * <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Monday March 06, 2006 @03:09PM (#14860273) Homepage Journal
    ...unless it can be enforced.

    My fear about unenforceable laws such as this one is the true power behind the law. Sure, it will be hard to enforce, but the powers the State will request to try to enforce it will play directly into the hands of those willing to finance the system.

    Anonymous posting is harmless, yet un criminalizing it I can easily see how it can play into the hands of the RIAA and the MPAA -- giving them (and others) greater power in their cartels.
    • by aminorex ( 141494 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @03:20PM (#14860400) Homepage Journal
      An a law isn't a law, if it has already been found to be unconstitutional. There is a body of SC precedent that holds that (1) anonymity is a protected free speech right, and (2) the first amendment applies to the states as well as the federal government. In this case, 1+2 = 3: Any such state law is prima facie unconsitutional.
    • My fear about unenforceable laws such as this one is the true power behind the law. Sure, it will be hard to enforce, but the powers the State will request to try to enforce it will play directly into the hands of those willing to finance the system.

      I suspect however, that this law will not reach the light of day. Surely the Supreme Court of NJ will see it for what it is and overturn it, if NJ lawmakers are stupid enough to pass it in the first place. I personally will lobby against this locally. Ultimate

      • by dada21 ( 163177 ) * <adam.dada@gmail.com> 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?
        • I disagree. The legislators can have their guesses, but in the end, they don't know how courts will rule. The checks we have now seem adequate.
        • 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?

          Even if a law "makes it to the books," it can still later be declared unconstitutional. The courts don't approve laws before they become official (in the U.S., anyway; some countries they do); but it can strike them down later, when a challenge is presented against that particular law. This also means that a bad law can be on the books (and enforced by th

    • kind of like the thin edge of the camel's nose... just waiting for all the campaign financing to get the rest of the camel through and into the tent...
    • by njchick ( 611256 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @03:41PM (#14860642) Journal
      Unfortunately, it can be enforced. From the proposed bill:
      The operator of any interactive computer service or an Internet service provider shall establish, maintain and enforce a policy to require any information content provider who posts written messages on a public forum website either to be identified by a legal name and address, or to register a legal name and address with the operator of the interactive computer service or the Internet service provider through which the information content provider gains access to the interactive computer service or Internet, as appropriate.
      Basically, if you orerate a forum in New Jersey, your site must have data for your users, whether they are from New Jersey, New York or Papua New Guinea. If you don't have such data, you are in trouble, not your users. If the data is proven to be incorrect, you are also in trouble. Jurisdiction of the users doesn't matter, neigther does it matter whether the users have any legal right to be anonymous.
    • It's not that a law like this couldn't be enforced. It could be. On every online forum? No. On a case by case basis, say, when someone posts something a large corporation doesn't like? Oh, yes. Yes, it could be. "Well, Mr. Forum Admin, we see there's a request for the identity of this member of your online community -- you don't have their identity? What? Well, I guess you'll have to remove the comment now, and you'll be lucky if we don't shut you down for not following the law and collecting iden
    • 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 [wikipedia.org]...
  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @03:10PM (#14860275)
    So you have to get proof of ID? Nice. Now, how do you do that? By sending a copy of your passport to a forum admin? Great, thanks for opening a new and interesting opportunity for Nigeria scammers. Don't have to send lengthy mails around, all you need now is his bank account, you already got the harder to get part.

    Will I provide my real name if no such proof of ID is required? Hardly. And who would take it upon himself to prove that I am really myself? Hell, you can register DNS entries with fake IDs, do you really think your neighborhood forum admin will go to greater lengths than companies making some bucks with holding databases of their users?

    But the bill goes further than that. A forum admin is liable for slander on his board. Now, ain't this great? Sure, you can't shut people up, first amendment and all that. But you can make sure nobody dares to offer services that would allow you to execute said right. No board, no discussion, no dissent.

    Less direct than China, but by no means less efficient. You can't shut them up per se, but cover them in enough red tape that they can't go to the lengths required to stay out of harm's way and shut up "voluntarily". Either you can sink enough money into the identification process of your users to make SURE they are who they claim to be, or you can just as well shut down your board because you can't afford the lawsuits that just might spring up when someone dares to say a word someone important doesn't enjoy hearing.

    Yes, yes, I can understand that it's not cool to hear slander and libel on boards. But the tools to get the person under your thumb are already here. IP logs exist, trace them to their source and you got who you need. Case closed.

    So what for do you need the poster ID?


    Let's hope our clever and very smart politicians never find out something like the usenet even exists.
    • 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.
      • 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?

        • by Gorm the DBA ( 581373 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @04:56PM (#14861492) Journal
          This is how it would play out (assuming NJ actually passes this piece of trash):

          Day 0 - Legislature passes bill, governor indicates it will be signed. state laws dictate at some future date law will come into affect. (For purposes of argument, let's assume NJ has a 90 day rule, that's pretty typical).

          Day 1 - ACLU, EFF, and about 3 dozen other organizations start finding people willing to be defendents in a "Test Case", as well as lining up counsel (ie lawyers) and other needed assets.

          Day 5 (at the latest, it takes time to write legal briefs) - ACLU, EFF, et al file lawsuit under the title of the lead test defendant, with Federal Court allegding that the law infringes on rights of test defendant in some way.

          Day 6 - Federal judge reviews pleading and determines that there is, in fact, a decent chance that the law might be unconstitutional, files a temporary restraining order prohibiting New Jersey from enforcing the law.

          Day 374 - Case actually comes to trial.

          In the meantime, no one can be arrested, charged, prosecuted, threatened with prosecution, or in any other way hit over the head with this law, it is forbidden to be enforced until judgement is rendered.

          (Worst Case scenario) Day 380 - Judge determines ACLU is wrong, law is allowed to go into effect. At this point, prosecutions could begin, assuming the restraining order is not continued to allow appeal (which would almost certainly happen)

          (Best Case scenario) Day 380 - Judge determines New Jersey was smoking crack and the law is patently wrong, rules for test defendents. Temporary injunction is made permanent (assuming NJ doesn't appeal).

          So, in short, until the Courts and the lawyers are done, this will have no effect at all.

  • by dc29A ( 636871 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @03:10PM (#14860278)
    Instead of anonymous users, you'll have:

    Name: Hugh Jass.
    Address: 123 Fake Street.
    Email: yourmomma@home.com

    Brilliant idea!
  • by WillAffleckUW ( 858324 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @03:10PM (#14860279) Homepage Journal
    Many of them posted handbills - anonymously - at public places.

    Some of them posted scurious tracts arguing for Common Sense and other radical ideas, many using pen names (the same as anonymous postings).

    I for one welcome our Thought Police Masters and bow to them in the East five times a day ...
      • Thanks for the link. It's been a while since I've reviewed the Federalist Papers.

        One thing that stands out from the wiki entry is at the end. The part regarding the Bill of Rights. The last two sentences read:

        Supporters of the bill of rights argued that a list of rights would and should not be interpreted as exhaustive; i.e., that these rights were examples of important rights that people had, but that people had other rights as well. People in this school of thought were confident that the judicia

        • Of course, the founders were smart enough to specifically say, in the 9th amendment, that the enumeration of rights in the previous 8 amendments didn't take away any other rights.

          Unfortunately, they were not smart enough to add "no really, we mean it, moron" to the end of each amendment. Or to establish a system of ostracism for government officials who can't comprehend phrases like "no law" and "shall not be violated".

        • by AlterTick ( 665659 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @05:08PM (#14861623)
          That got my attention because the current configuration of the court has a near majority of people who view the Bill of Rights, and the Constitution in general, as limiting rights, not expanding rights. I know Scalia in particular thinks that the Constitution is not a living document but says what it says and should never be interpreted otherwise.

          Indeed there are far too many folks who are either ignorant of, or intentionally ignore the 9th Amendment:

          The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

          However, as a strong believer in the 9th Amendment I would be loath to take up the banner of the Living Document crowd. "Living Documentists" are word twisters and shades-of-gray, "it depends of what you think the word means" semanticists. They're intellectually bankrupt in that they seem to think the constitution is a rubbery, flexible thing that can be molded into whatever their "modern vision of society" requires. The classic example is the attempt to recast the 2nd Amendment as only assurance that states are allowed to have a [militia/National Guard], rather than a guarantee that the check against tyranny of an armed populace remains.

          No, Strict Constructionists (or rather, Originalists) have the right idea, but the current crop of conservative ones we have around display a maddening tendency towards specific, selective blindness. I believe the founding fathers meant exactly what they wrote in the constitution, and that it only requires that you actually read it for it to be effective.

    • by QCompson ( 675963 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @03:33PM (#14860550)
      The founding fathers are sooo pre-911.
  • 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 tur
    • While what you are saying IS true, America IS destroying itself with rediculous legislation... America's saving grace seems to be that other industrialized nations are doing the same thing.

      I mean, European governments and the EU have no shortage of retarded legislation restricting free speech, commerce, and privacy on the internet. And places like China definitly don't have speech internet legislation that I would want to emulate, although they tend to be moving towards more freedom (where the U.S. and Euro
    • by telbij ( 465356 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @04:40PM (#14861359)
      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.

      That's just the symptom. The real problem is one that all great civilizations face: abundance decreases motivation and creates a false sense of entitlement. Just look at companies like Enron who fabricate business models out of thin air. There's so much money floating around the United States, that monetary success has very little to do with creating any kind of value. Meanwhile, developing countries like China are plowing full steam ahead. Right now the United States is basically just riding a wave of lucky historical opportunity. Given the concentration of wealth and power, that wave can carry the US by intertia for quite some time, but maybe not as long as most Americans think.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    ...that more people aren't posting as Anonymous Cowards under this topic.
  • 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."
    • The Supreme Court has held that the 14th Amendment causes all of the restrictions provided by the US Constitution to be applied to the states as well.

  • I personally can't wait for the nasty replies to enforcement efforts to be posted on the Pirate Bay's ``legal threat" pages. . . . .
  • by Anonymous Coward
    http://www.chillingeffects.org/dmca-sub/faq.cgi#QI D508 [chillingeffects.org]

    Anonymous pamphleteering is protected under the first ammendment. There are a number of cases that set a precident for this. For this NJ law to stand would fundamentally change the law of the land.
  • RFID, banning anonymity--what next, random searches on the street and in your home?

    I hate politicians.
  • So, only people whose IP says they are from NJ will be forced to register.

    The result?

      - People in NJ who want to remain anonymous to do obnoxious postings will use a proxy

      - The people who will be hassled and thus pissed off? The people who live in NJ and are not doing obnoxious postings.

    Way to bring home the vote fellas - by pissing off all your constitients.

  • by Quadraginta ( 902985 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @03:21PM (#14860404)
    This is silly. The New Jersey Supreme Court has already decided [usatoday.com] that citizens of New Jersey enjoy a strong First Amendment right to anonymity in their online postings.

    I doubt this bill even gets out of committee, let alone gets passed by the NJ Assembly so that it can be immediately struck down by a NJ judge. As for why, then, a hopeless, pointless bill was introduced by Assemblyman Biondi -- mmmm, maybe he's got an election coming up? Needs to do a little grandstanding?
  • Quite simple (in the head of the many pesky bugs (aka poly-ticks)):

    You, as the board admin, are liable for everything that happens on your board. If you don't find someone to blame other than yourself, you're hanging for it.

    So they shift the burden of proof to the ones running the boards. Can't prove that it's someone else? Ok, we'll take you instead.

    The net effect will most likely be, that people who run their boards in NJ move out of the state. If more states pass that law, it will move out of the US.

  • I'm just curious (Score:2, Insightful)

    by trogdor8667 ( 817114 )
    I own a website with forums, and, while I don't accept anonymous posts at all, I do have a userbase from the entire world. If I'm in Tennessee, and my server is in Atlanta, how would this affect me? Would I have to collect everyone's information to comply with this law (that only affects NJ)? Would I have to collect names and addresses of only New Jersey residents? Would I have to do anything at all, since I am not in New Jersey? This scares me, because it makes it sound like if I do have to collect these a
  • by orthogonal ( 588627 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @03:25PM (#14860455) Journal
    MR. JUSTICE Hugo Black, writing for the Supreme Court of the United States in Talley v. California, 362 U.S. 60 (1960), declaring unconstitutional a California ordinance requiring that handbills and pamphlets be signed:

    Anonymous pamphlets, leaflets, brochures and even books have played an important role in the progress of mankind. Persecuted groups and sects from time to time throughout history have been able to criticize oppressive practices and laws either anonymously or not at all. The obnoxious press licensing law of England, which was also enforced on the Colonies was due in part to the knowledge that exposure of the names of printers, writers and distributors would lessen the circulation of literature critical of the government. The old seditious libel cases in England show the lengths to which government had to go to find out who was responsible for books that were obnoxious [362 U.S. 60, 65] to the rulers. John Lilburne was whipped, pilloried and fined for refusing to answer questions designed to get evidence to convict him or someone else for the secret distribution of books in England. Two Puritan Ministers, John Penry and John Udal, were sentenced to death on charges that they were responsible for writing, printing or publishing books. 6 Before the Revolutionary War colonial patriots frequently had to conceal their authorship or distribution of literature that easily could have brought down on them prosecutions by English-controlled courts. Along about that time the Letters of Junius were written and the identity of their author is unknown to this day. Even the Federalist Papers, written in favor of the adoption of our Constitution, were published under fictitious names. It is plain that anonymity has sometimes been assumed for the most constructive purposes.

      We have recently had occasion to hold in two cases that there are times and circumstances when States may not compel members of groups engaged in the dissemination of ideas to be publicly identified. Bates v. Little Rock, 361 U.S. 516 ; N. A. A. C. P. v. Alabama, 357 U.S. 449, 462 . The reason for those holdings was that identification and fear of reprisal might deter perfectly peaceful discussions of public matters of importance. This broad Los Angeles ordinance is subject to the same infirmity. We hold that it, like the Griffin, Georgia, ordinance, is void on its face. [362 U.S. 60, 66]

    Of course, the Court's membership isn't the same as it was in 1960. The President can appoint who he wants to the Supreme Court. So, who'd you vote for, for president, in 2004?
  • fine (Score:3, Funny)

    by bitspotter ( 455598 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @03:34PM (#14860561) Journal
    My Name is Al Gore, and I live at 1600 Pennsylvania avenue, Washington, DC. Happy now?
  • State Lines (Score:3, Insightful)

    by RandomPrecision ( 911416 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @03:34PM (#14860562)
    What happens if I anonymously post on a New Jersey forum from Illinois?

    For that matter, what makes it a New Jersey forum? The physical location of the server? The physical location of the forum admins?

    And if another state supports anonymous posting, but the anonymous posting happens to be on a NJ server...

    Isn't this why the federal government controls interstate relations (i.e., currency)?
  • Deare Reader (Score:4, Insightful)

    by paiute ( 550198 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @03:52PM (#14860788)
    'Tis hard for an empty bag to stand upright!

    yr. svnt.

    Poor Richard

  • by aphoenix ( 877085 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @04:05PM (#14860946)
    It just doesn't seem fair to make people actually admit that they're from New Jersey. Isn't this persection? I mean, think of some poor guy, sitting there of an evening, trying to pick up online, maybe a little bit of troll-on-orc action, when *bam*, the person on the other end figures out that he's from Newark. That guy's just never going to get cyber-ass again.
  • Look at the monkey (Score:3, Insightful)

    by AnotherBlackHat ( 265897 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @04:34PM (#14861296) Homepage

    The New Jersey legislature is considering a bill that would require ...

    Another stupid bill that has essentially zero chance of passing, but which will generate a huge amount of outrage.

    Whenever I see a story like this, I always wonder what it is they are trying to distract people away from.

    -- Should you believe authority without question?

  • by deblau ( 68023 ) <slashdot.25.flickboy@spamgourmet.com> on Monday March 06, 2006 @04:51PM (#14861457) Journal
    But don't take my word for it. Here's what Justice Stevens had to say about it:
    "Anonymous pamphlets, leaflets, brochures and even books have played an important role in the progress of mankind." Talley v. California, 362 U.S. at 64. Great works of literature have frequently been produced by authors writing under assumed names. Despite readers' curiosity and the public's interest in identifying the creator of a work of art, an author generally is free to decide whether or not to disclose his or her true identity. The decision in favor of anonymity may be motivated by fear of economic or official retaliation, by concern about social ostracism, or merely by a desire to preserve as much of one's privacy as possible. Whatever the motivation may be, at least in the field of literary endeavor, the interest in having anonymous works enter the marketplace of ideas unquestionably outweighs any public interest in requiring disclosure as a condition of entry. Accordingly, an author's decision to remain anonymous, like other decisions concerning omissions or additions to the content of a publication, is an aspect of the freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment.
    McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Comm'n, 514 U.S. 334, 341-342 (1995).
    [N.B.: there is a minor exception to the rule against prohibiting anonymous speech: election disclosures. For more information about this, see Buckley v. Am. Constitutional Law Found., 525 U.S. 182 (1999) [epic.org] and McConnell v. FEC, 540 U.S. 93 (2003) [cornell.edu].]

    Have you ever seen an anonymous letter stapled to a telephone pole, slandering someone? You'd like to be able to sue for defamation, but you can't. That's life, it sucks, deal with it. You can't just tack on the words "on the internet" and change things. Of course, that's what this bill is trying to do -- impose an affirmative duty to watch each and every telephone pole and identify the posters by legal name and address.

    Now although it's not the main issue, economics should be addressed. Sure, the cost is spread out over all the website operators and not consolidated in the phone company, but the same cost is being imposed nonetheless. Every website operator will now have to 'hire guards' (databases, coding special HTML pages, access restrictions, etc). This makes hosting a public forum more expensive. You might even call it a 'tax' on free speech.

    Both from a rights perspective and an economic perspective, this bill stinks.

  • by Cro Magnon ( 467622 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @05:16PM (#14861706) Homepage Journal
    To prove it, I'll post my real name & address on Slashdot:

    First Name: Cro
    Last Name: Magnon
    Address: 1234 Inna Cave Dr.
  • A Historical Note (Score:5, Insightful)

    by edward.virtually@pob ( 6854 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @07:19PM (#14862700)
    Don't know if anyone has mentioned this yet, but our country was founded in part by the reaction to anonymous letters printed in the Colonial newspapers by our Founding Fathers. So banning anonymous speech is utterly unamerican.
    • 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.
  • by gorehog ( 534288 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @07:38PM (#14862850)

    I have spent a good part of today deliberating on this story and have constructed a carefully reasoned and highly cogent argument against the bill. It follows in the next paragraph.

    Fuck that noise.

    I feel that my reasoning is plain and does not require explanation.

    For those with questions I refer you to the Declaration of Independence, the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights, and the Colonial Revolution of 1776.

  • by jebintx ( 665104 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @08:16PM (#14863098)
    It is no coincidence that the GOP leader of the New Jersey Assembly introduced this law. It goes right back to the 2002 lawsuit (Donato v. Moldow) against EyeOnEmerson.com in which four Republicans LOST their libel suit against the website over anonymous comments they disliked.

    N.J. judge dismisses lawsuit over anonymous Web site criticism [freedomforum.org]

    New Jersey Court of Appeals rules for EyeOnEmerson website [eff.org]

    "It is far from over," said Jack Darakjy, the attorney representing the plaintiffs [freedomforum.org]. "We will appeal the decision. If we need to, our clients are prepared to take this all the way to the Supreme Court."

    Or, if you are politically connected in New Jersey, maybe you just go to your party and get them to take up your crusade.

1 Angstrom: measure of computer anxiety = 1000 nail-bytes