One thing we have noted about some of the recent legislation that is being pushed around about the Internet is that they always have a champion cause to hide behind. These are often very real and important causes. For SOPA and PIPA it was jobs and protecting our national economy, for CISPA it is national security and the ever looming threat of terrorism. This is a huge theme that often pops up whenever our law makers want to get something passed the public. Instead of actually addressing these issues with other legislation they tack them on the end of bills that do not really do anything about the champion-cause they are attached to. Instead they tend to be laws that are grossly ignorant of the technology they are trying to control.
In this case the law is Internet Protection Act (A.8688/S.6779) and even the name is just wrong. The bill does not protect the internet in any measurable way, but actually will hurt it ( in the State of New York) as an outlet for free speech. Here is a comment from Jim Conte on the site lipoltics.com:
“Too often, online bullies hide behind their anonymity as they inflict pain. My legislation turns the spotlight on cyber-bullies by forcing them to reveal their identity or have their post removed. Once a bully is identified, steps can be taken to end the harassment. Bullying is no laughing matter. The more we can do to combat this abuse, the better off we will all be as a society.”
Sounds good right? Well hang on a minute as he gets to one of the real reasons for the bill:
“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.”
Ah now we get it. So what they want to do it find the dissenters. They could claim that anything was a false or baseless accusation and require the person either reveal themselves or have the site that it was posted on delete the comment. This sounds very unorthodox and also meshes very well with the current cases against OWS protesters.
To get the idea think about it this way. If this law is passed your favorite blog(s)/Site(s), if located in New York, or owned by companies/persons that reside in New York, could be required to keep logs of the people that comment. They want proof of real name, address, IP address and more. Now at this point they can demand that the site reveal the identity of the person publicly or remove the post. However, we are going to bet that even if the post is removed a subpoena for that information (which is required by law now) will be served on the site where the original post happened.
The fact that they are trying to push this through on the coat-tails of a Cyber bullying law is sort of appalling.
The California Anti-SLAPP project (Anti- Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) sees this as unconstitutional and a clear violation of the fruit amendment. They fell that this law is nothing more than an effort to prevent people from voicing their issues with politicians that are running for office. Considering the wording of the First Amendment:
” Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
It seems pretty clear that this new law even if only in New York is in violation of this vital freedom.
Now while we have covered the political side of this there is also another side. Let’s consider the cost of maintaining and policing this. Many blogs and sites are hosted by other companies (WordPress is one) and site owners might not have the resources to establish this type of monitoring and collection service. This type of technology (although available) can become cumbersome to operate, expensive to maintain and in all likelihood will drive traffic away from those sites.
Once again we see someone in a legislative branch of government trying to make a law that cannot reasonably be applied to the technology they was aiming at (we are not even going to get into the IP Address requirement I guess Conte has never head how ISPs work…). Of course as we have mentioned time and time again most of these laws are really meant to frighten you into letting them control the Internet.
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