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New York state bill could ban anonymous online comments

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Storm Fox:
No votes have been taken yet, but if ever passed, the bill called the Internet Protection Act, will require website admins to remove all anonymous comments from their websites upon request.
Unless the anonymous posters agree to identify them selves by putting their own names on the posts they make, as well as confirming that it is their legal name and also validate their home and IP address to an administrator of the site. :o

Now it's my understanding that this only affects sites that are based in the state of New York, not people who live there.
Although it's not hard to imagine how easily this sort of thing could spread to other states.

Source 1: Huffington Post
Source 2: CBS News
Source 3: PC World

I'd almost like to see one of these things pass in an isolated place one day, just so these people can see first hand how stupid and useless it is. But that relies on them noticing.

So would that mean, if Furtopia was based in New York, that we would not be able to post under aliases?  Or is it strictly anonymous?  Or, do our real identities only have to be revealed to admins?

Storm Fox:

--- Quote from: Mylo on May 25, 2012, 09:54:34 pm ---So would that mean, if Furtopia was based in New York, that we would not be able to post under aliases?  Or is it strictly anonymous?  Or, do our real identities only have to be revealed to admins?

--- End quote ---
I’m not completely sure on that, as the whole thing is a little vague, but if Furtopia was based there, and the bill were passed, we would be affected in some way.

Technically an alias such as the ones we all use here are anonymous names, but whether a legal name is to be displayed publicly or not, is not completely clear, as I’m not sure if a site admin having the info satisfies all the requirements.
And if we go by the text in the bill as 100% literal with no room for any other interpretation, it sounds as if a legal name must be displayed, but only if someone requests the post in question to be removed.

The bill is written in the light of protecting victims of cyber-bulling, (or so it says under justification in the memo section of the bill), but there's no provisions that define a hostile post, or what truly defines a victim.
The only thing the bill specifically addresses are that a post is by someone who’s “anonymous“, and that someone must complain about / report the posting.
And also, there is no provisions defining who can request the removal of a post, though it's indented to be a "victim", which could be a child being bullied, or a business, a political figure, etc.
And there’s nothing that states that such a person (the one that would be doing the reporting), has to be known or identified, so technically anyone can request a post removal.

In fact, the bill is worded so poorly that it technically defines an anonymous poster as…
“any individual who posts a message on a web
site including social networks, blogs forums, message boards or any
other discussion site where people can hold conversations in the form of
posted messages.”

And in section 2 it states that…
“A web site administrator upon request  shall  remove  any  comments
posted  on his or her web site by an anonymous poster unless such anony-
mous poster agrees to attach his or her name to the  post  and  confirms
that  his  or her IP address, legal name, and home address are accurate.
All web site administrators  shall  have  a  contact  number  or  e-mail
address  posted  for  such  removal  requests,  clearly  visible  in any
sections where comments are posted.”

Bill text:

Honestly, given the wording and the effort (or lack thereof) put into writing the bill, I would think that it’s not likely to pass or go anywhere.
But I think it does set a dangerous tone, and is likely to lead to more things like it, either through rewording this bill, or other states running with the idea and coming up with their own versions.

So in short, I don't see a threat from this exact bill, but it is what is referred to as legislative black ice, and is a sign of things to come and watch out for.

More of these bills, eh?

Seems like many legislators don't seem to realize how the internet works. Specifically regarding trolls. I think the point of it is to have real contact info so that if laws are broken (illegal things posted, personal threats, etc), they can know who was actually responsible. What they don't realize is that a bill like this would be fodder for trolls.

I'm going to go on a tangent here, but it is related, so bear with me.
There are groups/companies who do understand the workings of the internet quite well. Riot games, for example (makers of League of Legends), has a very large community to consider whenever they do anything. And as with anywhere on the internet, some of that community does have a tendency to troll, or at least bend/abuse rules/loopholes at any opportunity they get.

I've seen them roll out a Tribunal system. This is essentially a jury system that allows members of the community to determine if a player's behavior warrants a punishment. Players have the chance after a game to report other players if they were exhibiting bad behavior. If enough reports build up on a player, they have a case presented to the Tribunal, where the case will be voted on by peers.

Knowing how the internet works, this is an extremely dangerous concept for handling things like this. But you know what? They pulled it off and came up with a pretty successful system. But it took many months of development in order for them to take into account every last way in which the system might be able to be abused. And then they put in measures to counter such abuse.

So it is possible to come up with systems that work (though this is a much smaller scale example). But anything regarding the internet cannot be vague, because it'll get abused so fast it wouldn't even be funny. Sadly, the way the law works, vague is in vogue.

Maybe the lawmakers should take these bills first to certain troll-filled parts of the internet and just let them read through them. I'm sure they would get a lot of good feedback of how they would wind up being abused.


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