Anonymity is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the United States was founded, in part, thanks to Thomas Paine’s anonymously written, pro-revolution pamphlet Common Sense. On the other hand, 12-year-olds who post anonymously on the internet can be rather unpleasant and cause real problems by cyberbullying. Whether you think the good outweighs the bad, this news is troubling indeed: A far-reaching bill introduced in the New York State Senate could end the practice of posting online once and for all.
Sen. Thomas F. O’Mara / NY SenateIntroduced by New York State Sen. Thomas F. O’Mara (R—Big Flats), S6779 would require that any anonymous post online is subject to removal if the poster refuses to post — and verify — their legal name, their IP address, and their home address. From the (likely well intentioned) bill:
"A web site administrator upon request shall remove any comments posted on his or her web site by an anonymous poster unless such anonymous 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."
Critics are quick to point out how dangerous and ineffective the anti-privacy bill would be in the off chance that it somehow passes. After all, IP addresses do nothing to verify a person’s identity, and including your home address on a controversial internet post could open you up to real-life threats.
In effect, the bill is an online stalker’s dream. Of course, the most likely result of the bill’s passage would just be the full-scale elimination of all comment systems everywhere, because the system is an unworkable burden on both the poster and the “web site administrators” who would need to respond to ludicrous take down requests at all times of the day.