A new bill being presented in New York State, the Internet Protection Act would force people who make online comments to identify themselves, or have their comments removed. It purports to address the very real problem of ‘cyber-bullying,’ but in reality is a pitiable attempt to protect businesses from online consumers negatively discussing their goods and services:
From Assemblyman Jim Conte (R-Huntington Station):
In addition to cracking down on cyber-bullying, the bill also prevents people from posting anonymous criticism of local businesses. Too often, rival businesses will post negative and false posts to hurt their competition. With more and more people turning to online reviews, it is important to ensure that the posted information, good or bad, is from actual customers and not rival competitors.
I’m surprised, as I thought Republicans preferred their capitalism unfettered by regulation. Of course what this really means, is that anyone who wants to share information on shoddy goods or services, will either have to identify themselves, or have their comments removed.
But Conte and the bill’s co-sponsors’ concern doesn’t end with local business; they also hope that this legislation will put an end to picking on….well, them:
Finally, the legislation will help cut down on the types of mean-spirited and baseless political attacks that add nothing to the real debate and merely seek to falsely tarnish the opponent’s reputation by using the anonymity of the Web. By removing these posts, this bill will help to ensure that there is more accurate information available to voters on their prospective candidates, giving them a better assessment of the candidates they have to choose from.
At last, somebody is willing to step up and do something about the scourge of the nation’s politicians being singled out for criticism! I’m sure you’re all familiar with Republican distaste for, “mean-spirited and baseless political attacks.”
Experts are cynical about the intent of the bill, as well as its application. From Wired:
“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.”
This bill isn’t expected to pass, as it has one big problem. The First Amendment to the Constitution. This bill, should it somehow become law, it would literally be Congress making a law “prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech…”
Too bad many Republicans only see the First Amendment as, ‘That one before the part where I get to have guns.”