New York State ‘Anonymous Commenter’ Bill Author Issues Statement

What a difference a few days makes for a politician with an "unconventional" idea. After getting a little pushback from constituents, New York State Assemblyman Dean Murray (R) issued a statement trying to clarify the intended purpose of his billing to deal with anonymous Internet comments. One could categorize his statement as more of a walk back than a clarification… You can read it below in its entirety but the main thrust of it is that his bill would not "ban" anonymous comments that people complained about but would "only apply to factual concerns, not opinions."

The biggest problem is, who decides what a fact is and what is an opinion? Site owners? Don't they already moderate their user comments, and if they do why do they need another layer of bureaucracy and a complaint system added to what they already do? And how does this fight cyberbullying if the challenge is on a "factual basis?"

Ultimately commenters think the law is silly and site owners see it as more work with little payoff because they are already policing their comments. That's why websites have terms of service and user conduct agreements.

Anyway here's New York State Assemblyman Dean Murray's statement:

Over the past few days, there has been a healthy and productive discussion regarding the “Internet Protection Act,” legislation I sponsored to protect victims from libelous and defamatory remarks by anonymous posters.

Countless people have contacted me in support of this anti-bullying measure, with suggestions to improve and strengthen it.

One such change that is being considered is to tighten up the language to clarify exactly who can challenge a statement and under what circumstances that request can be made to the administrator. The intent of the bill is to focus on protecting those being targeted by malicious and false statements, but would only apply to factual concerns, not opinions. This requirement to attach your name to a statement would only apply if the statement is challenged and it can only be challenged based on factual information not opinion. It is the victim, or target of the statement that has to reach out to the administrator.

In the coming weeks, I am hoping to meet with internet providers, web site owners and others in the on-line community to work together on this legislation, and refine it to offer better protection to victims of cyber bullying and other crimes.

The First Amendment is one of our most important rights as Americans, and this bill ensures the protection of that right for those who wish to post opinions and truthful information anonymously. Unfortunately, some opponents of this legislation have mischaracterized this bill in an attempt to have it withdrawn. It has been stated that this legislation would ban all anonymous internet postings in New York. That could not be further from the truth.

When anonymous posters hide behind the internet to commit a crime (such as harassment) or as a vehicle for defamation, innocent men, women and children are openly victimized, and the public is intentionally misled.

This legislation merely asks those making their allegations to attach their name to their comments and claim responsibility, just as journalists and those writing letters to the editor of newspapers do.

I look forward to working with a broad spectrum of groups to improve and strengthen this legislation.

Source: BetaBeat

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