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One has to wonder just how this proposed legislation can be reasonably justified:

Kentucky Representative Tim Couch filed a bill this week to make anonymous posting online illegal.

The bill would require anyone who contributes to a website to register their real name, address and e-mail address with that site. . .

If the bill becomes law, the website operator would have to pay if someone was allowed to post anonymously on their site. The fine would be five-hundred dollars for a first offense and one-thousand dollars for each offense after that.

How can a blog or personal website reasonably be expected to verify the identity of every commentor?  Just look at the hassle Jeremy’s been going through over at GoodAsYou because of someone commenting on a blog who left a name and contact information.  Boggling. 

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  1. Ah, but it’s not asking people to verify; it’s asking people not to allow anonymous comments.

    If I were asked to do that for my blog, I’d put in place a system similar to your forums — in order to comment, you have to register, provide an email address, and then respond to that email address with an affirmative.

    Had Jeremy Hooper simply sent an email to verify the comment in question first, this wouldn’t be a problem. But he decided to write screeds based on scanty proof, and now he’s paying for it.

    No sympathy.

  2. But that’s impossible to do if you have, oh, say even 200 different comments left in one day. It’s too labor intensive to be practicable.

  3. Life is rough. There are plenty of blogs already that require registration in order to comment, i.e. Michelle Malkin.

    And in Jeremy’s case, again, he should have verified that that person actually made that comment before he decided to have a screaming post-fit about it. Still no sympathy.

  4. However, what you’re failing to take into account, NDT, is that the Internet, by its very nature, presents a new communication paradigm that challenges our current views on anonymous speech.

    As RIAA is finding out, it’s damn hard to “prove” or “verify” identity on the Internet. In short, the person sending the message, posting the comment, downloading the song, etc. knows that it’s them, but there’s very little way to beyond a shadow of a doubt claim person A-prime is actually responsible for saying what person A said. Registration is all very nice, but is easily subverted.

    Requiring all bloggers across the board to become cyber-Nancy Drews and Hardy Boys or face criminal and/or civil repercussion represents an unreasonable burden on those bloggers and constitutes a violation of free speech.

    Furthermore, as the PATRIOT Act and it’s supporters have taught us, if you don’t have anything the feel guilty about, you have no reason to worry. If you didn’t actually make a comment attributed to you in some way, then why worry about it? At least, that’s what Ron Paul says…well, said, for a good long time, anyway.

  5. I put it this way, QJ; if I want a letter published in the Chronicle, I have to submit my name, where I live, and my contact information so that it can be verified. That’s because a newspaper is a mass medium that can be seen by hundreds of thousands of people; that gives what is printed in it an enormous amount of power, and courts have regularly ruled that putting limits of discretion on that power do not constitute violations of free speech.

    The Internets have democratized that power so that virtually anyone at a desk has the same potential capability to get their words published and seen as does the editor of a major daily newspaper; hence, I do not have an enormous problem with them being held to the same standard of responsibility as a daily newspaper.

    Sure, these things can be subverted. However, the act of subverting someone’s email or online password already implies malicious intent, and that limits your liability as the owner of the stolen resource. To use an example, you can’t be sued if someone steals your car and kills someone else with it if you took reasonable precautions to secure it, i.e. locked the doors.

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