Please create an account to participate in the Slashdot moderation system


Forgot your password?
Government Censorship News

State Lawmaker Wants To Ban Anonymous Posting Online 471

bfwebster writes "According to a local news article from last week, Kentucky state lawmaker Tim Couch wants to ban anonymous posting on the internet in order to 'cut down on online bullying', which he says has been 'a particular problem in eastern Kentucky.' His bill would require posters to register with their real names and e-mail addresses under threat of fines. Looks like another battle in the right for anonymous free speech."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

State Lawmaker Wants To Ban Anonymous Posting Online

Comments Filter:
  • by going_the_2Rpi_way ( 818355 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @01:22PM (#22703820) Homepage
    hope in hell of being enforced, or are at the very least enforceable.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 10, 2008 @01:23PM (#22703826)
    We should ban stupid politicians. Unfortunately, how do you ban ignorance?
  • Please... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SameBrian ( 945591 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @01:25PM (#22703882)
    If you're getting bullied online by anonymous people and taking it seriously, then your parents messed up big time somewhere along the way. I grew up with the internet, and was constantly harassed by anonymous idiots. I just knew better than to take them seriously, since they are SOME IDIOT ON THE INTERNET!!!!!1!!1!!!!lim(x->0)[sin(x)/x]. I'm getting really sick and tired of parents trying to use the legal system to protect their kids. The idea is that the legal system protects kids from things they don't understand. I'm pretty sure that the average child understands that some anonymous person on the internet cannot harm them and that they are probably just some other stupid kid. I wish parents would start actually raising their kids. My parents did a great job, and it was their first time.
  • OK, Arrest me (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 10, 2008 @01:25PM (#22703884)
    Just figure out who I am so you can find me.
  • Not A Solution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nom du Keyboard ( 633989 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @01:27PM (#22703922)
    If you don't want to be bullied online, stay offline.

    And if you think any country's laws - including the USA's - can regulate the world-wide Internet, you're dreaming. All this law would accomplish is to cause the creation of anonymous blogging centers in countries with stricter privacy laws.

    And by the way, hasn't the Supreme Court already said that you have a right to be anonymous online?

    The only people who would benefit from this are the individuals, corporations, and politicians seeking to quash dissent by outing, and then suing, those who post unflattering comments, no matter how truthful. And those aren't the people I want to be helping out.

  • by gearloos ( 816828 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @01:28PM (#22703946)
    "You Cant Fix Stupid"
  • by Brian Gordon ( 987471 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @01:28PM (#22703950)
    Is that seriously the main flaw you find with this law? Would you rather they come up with a free-speech-restricting law that's more enforcable?
  • Won't pass (Score:3, Insightful)

    by OrangeTide ( 124937 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @01:28PM (#22703974) Homepage Journal
    Bills like this don't get anywhere in America. Unless he can come up with some religious reason to deny anonymous postings, there won't be any support from his constituency. You start messing with the first or second amendment in Kentucky and it's going to be an uphill battle.
  • by Weaselmancer ( 533834 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @01:33PM (#22704092)

    No, that isn't anyone's main flaw. But it should be mandatory that these lawmakers should have at least enough of a clue to determine if what they are proposing is even possible before they start drafting legislation.

    This makes as much sense as drafting a law making it illegal for it to rain on Thursdays. The frightening part is that the bozo drafting the law doesn't see why it's a problem.

  • by graveyhead ( 210996 ) <fletch.fletchtronics@net> on Monday March 10, 2008 @01:33PM (#22704094)
    Ooh, flamebait, fun! It's Monday after the clock change, so I'll entertain myself while my brain awakes.

    First of all, you spelled "know" incorrectly.

    Secondly, where did anyone mention religion? I must've missed that.

    Thirdly, do you have to use profanity? I mean I just sent Rep. ClueStick an email on his form, and was perfectly polite in telling him where to stick his bill :-P
  • by ( 1108067 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @01:35PM (#22704152) Homepage Journal

    His bill would require posters to register with their real names and e-mail addresses under threat of fines

    All they have to do is import the technology from China - the "other place" that wants to do the same thing ...

    Please remind me again what's the difference between the "land of the free" and "dirty commie bastards".

  • by Lockejaw ( 955650 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @01:45PM (#22704388)
    I'm pretty sure the result would really just be to drive a lot of web hosts out of Kentucky.
  • by taustin ( 171655 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @01:47PM (#22704442) Homepage Journal
    We need to ban anonymous posting to the internet because bullies who post anonymously are hard to track down.

    So we'll make them register their names and email addresses with the state.

    But they can get literally thousands of email address, for free, from services that aren't subject to our state's (or even country's) laws, and there is no mechanism even possible to police what email address or name they actually use, so they can continue to post anonymously.

    And even though we can't track down anonymouse cyber bullies now, we'll be able to later, when they're not using the name or email address they registered with the state.

    In addition to having no effect whatsoever, we will give them a legal defense of "Well, that's not my name or email adress! I registered those with the state, just like the law requires, so how could it be me?"

    This doesn't even look like an attempt to "do something." In fact, it looks more like an attempt to protect bullies than punish them.
  • by Maxo-Texas ( 864189 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @01:49PM (#22704486)
    Among the larger financial supporters of the coalition against drugs in america

    Tobacco Companies
    Alcohol Companies
    Private Prison Companies

    We incarcerate more people than china.
    We strip away a very particular group of people's voting rights through selective drug law enforcement.
    We have double the drug use of Amsterdam (where drug use is legal).

  • Yes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @01:52PM (#22704544)
    A law that isn't enforceable is totally pointless. If it is a legit, enforceable law, then you can debate if it is a good one or not, but an unenforceable law is just the height of stupidity and a waste of time. I mean we could pass a law saying the sun needs to be cooler, but there is fuck all we can do to make that happen, so it would be a waste of time.

    I'm not saying I agree with laws that are restricting speech, but at least if it was a law that was enforceable then there could be a point to it. You could debate if it was a good idea or not, if the tradeoff was worth it. Here, it is just a fucking waste of time since regardless of any merits, it just won't work.
  • by Pharmboy ( 216950 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @01:54PM (#22704590) Journal
    Laws that can only be enforced selectively are simply another form of tyranny. (ie: dominance through threat of punishment and violence)

    That is yet another and separate reason it should not pass, in addition the First Amendment issues.
  • Re:Ummm... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Stanislav_J ( 947290 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @01:57PM (#22704652)

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't SCOTUS already rule that anonymous speech is protected? Ah yes, here we go: []. Yet another law just waiting to be struck down, and it took five seconds on Google to demonstrate why.

    Ah, so SCOTUS decisions are written in stone, are they? If that were true, we would still be counting African-Americans as 3/5 of a person. Courts change, attitudes change, decisions that seemed immutable get overturned or reversed or gutted. Don't think it can't happen. If a liberal or centrist justice dies, and Bush gets one more appointment, we may have a Court that will one day declare the Constitution itself "unconstitutional..."

  • You forgot.... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by iknownuttin ( 1099999 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @02:03PM (#22704766)
    Unless he can come up with some religious reason to deny anonymous postings, there won't be any support from his constituency.

    You forgot the "Think of the Children" crowd. Making anonymous postings illegal will make it "easier" to catch the predators after your children!

  • by rucs_hack ( 784150 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @02:03PM (#22704774)
    Please remind me again what's the difference between the "land of the free" and "dirty commie bastards".

    Easy, the land of he free has Moms Apple pPie.
    (Now available from a frozen food isle near you..).

    Seriously though, the main difference is that while the US government might get angry at you, or take you to court over something you said, they won't have you taken away in the middle of the night and executed. That's a biggie, trust me on this.

    I was going to add that you wouldn't be imprisoned for life without trial, but Guantanamo bay is giving me pause for thought. That's likely a special case, after all, it is your current war type thing that's caused that.
  • by penguin_dance ( 536599 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @02:03PM (#22704782)
    Well, it's IMPOSSIBLE to find everyone who is illegally trading music. It's IMPOSSIBLE to stop every speeder. But they DO manage bringing charges against SOME who do. Never blow off a proposed law just because it's difficult to enforce. Because as stupid as the law is, it WILL net some poor saps who will either have to just up and pay the fines or have the funds to take it to the supreme court.

    Laws like this need to be nipped in the bud. BEFORE they get passed so we don't have to spend the $$ to fight them back out of existence. This law is draconian and clearly unconstitutional--obviously this guy or one of his big donors has their panties in a wad over something said anonymously about them and it just frosts them that they can't find out who it is.

    And lawmakers like this one need to be nipped in the bud and tossed out of office.
  • by YeeHaW_Jelte ( 451855 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @02:05PM (#22704800) Homepage
    "that there are quite a few people in China"

    which is quite apt, as China is another country that intends to ban anonymous posting online, with the difference that they actually have the manpower to enforce it.
  • Re:Please... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Merls the Sneaky ( 1031058 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @02:07PM (#22704838)
    Educate the child to BE anonymous If they are anonymous online noone can hurt them there.
  • Oh boy! (Score:-1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 10, 2008 @02:18PM (#22705030)
    This bill will make it a lot easier for Cyber Bullies to track down their victims in real life since they will have access to everyones real name. Won't that be fun.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 10, 2008 @02:18PM (#22705046)
    Simple, they'd say, it's the ISP's responsibility ;)
  • by Maxo-Texas ( 864189 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @02:19PM (#22705062)
    I agree that it is off-topic (tho it was technically a tangent to the Ayn Rand comment) but not intended as flamebait.

    I just recently saw a movie on the drug war and it was pretty upsetting (including fairly substantial and substantiated evidence) that the CIA under reagan (who I voted for) ran cocaine into america to support their revolution in central america.

    The bits about private prisons was very disturbing. I've known for quite a while that we imprison people in the US at a higher rate than the rest of the world.

    But to see an LA policeman relating how the CIA contacted him to ignore selected drug lords in an open public meetings (and to see the CIA director's obvious distress) was pretty shocking to me so I guess it was waiting to spew out somewhere.

    It pulled no punches-- drug users were shocking dregs in some cases. But so are extreme alcohol and tobacco users.

    We have so many bad laws related to this area- and now that they are tying "any drug sales == support for terror" they are able to ignore civil rights at increasing levels.

    Then you get some cheesehead like this guy wanting to ban the equivalent of posting anonymous hand bills and it is extremely irritating.
  • by sqrt(2) ( 786011 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @02:20PM (#22705072) Journal
    This completely asinine anti-Anonymous law is not a new trend in our government. In the US we have been more than willing to repeatedly try bad ideas as long as the intentions fit some vague Judeo-Christian moral standard (or if there's money to be made). Fear also works well enough. Fear of the anarchists, and then the communists, and then the terrorists, and then the "cyber bullies". Fear for our children. Fear of each other. Fear of freedom, of responsibility.

    Look at what happened with America's failed experiment to outlaw alcohol. What did we get? A thriving underground drug culture and a massive new revenue source for organized crime. We've been making the same mistake for 70 plus years only this time we seem content to just let things continue in this broken dysfunctional state. Drug use causes harm, but prohibition is worse.

    But, money is being made on all sides of the "War on drugs" so no one in power really wants it to end.
  • Re:Yes (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jav1231 ( 539129 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @02:20PM (#22705078)
    "A law that isn't enforceable is totally pointless"

    Not entirely. You're assuming the intent is to actually enforce law. Many such laws are passed everyday and are designed simply to foster a sense of accomplishment and augment power. Most are then marketed as necessary "for the safety of our children." When election time comes guess who the vast unwashed are going to vote for?
  • Re:Yes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by element-o.p. ( 939033 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @02:23PM (#22705158) Homepage
    Not only that, but when you pass unenforceable laws, you tend to devalue laws in general.
  • hilarious (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jgarra23 ( 1109651 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @02:26PM (#22705198)
    That'll be amusing when he tries to get this passed. I'd love to see this bill get laughed at when he is informed that it has virtually no enforceable methods and that international users will just see this as another ignorant "Stupid American" method of trying to control what it cannot.

    Oh, before anyone mods me as flamebait (which the zealots love to do) I'm a patriotic American and in case you haven't heard about something called The Monroe Doctrine...
  • by PPH ( 736903 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @02:34PM (#22705352)

    But it should be mandatory that these lawmakers should have at least enough of a clue to determine if what they are proposing is even possible before they start drafting legislation.

    The question of whether something is within the capabilities of the state to enforce is (supposed) to be addressed by the administration's (governor's) veto power. If a legislative body passes a bill that they cannot reasonably implement, they have that chance to make their point.

    Unfortunately, there is no requirement that a bill be vetted for its constitutionality by the courts. Once passed into law, the courts cannot consider it until a case is brought before a court empowered to make such a decision. That means: someone has to violate the law and then spend years and millions of dollars (occasionally contributed by advocacy organizations) to see the case through the requisite trial and appeals.

    I suspect that some legislators know this and just submit their bills in the hope that nobody will have the balls to stand up for their rights.

  • by robertjw ( 728654 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @02:38PM (#22705418) Homepage
    Actually, it' might be the main flaw. The major problem I have with these kinds of laws aren't IF they are enforcable, but how much the enforcement will cost and who will pay for it.

    An initiative like this will cost millions if not billions of dollars. It would probably be more effective to just set up a victims fund and pay for counseling for anyone who gets bullied. We waste so much money in this country on ridiculous activities like this, when we could be housing the homeless, educating our kids, or researching cures for cancer.

    It should not only be mandatory that lawmakers have a clue about feasibility, but every bill that's passed should have a study done as to the ultimate costs and the methods of funding the new law. If the money isn't in the budget the lawmakers can't pass the bill. If the lawmakers don't have enough money to conduct an adequate study, the bill also shouldn't be passed.
  • by Chyeld ( 713439 ) <chyeld&gmail,com> on Monday March 10, 2008 @02:49PM (#22705630)
    An unenforceable law, in my eyes, is one which is almost universially broken as a matter of the course of life. For relevant current laws, see most traffic regulations. These are outwardly passed to provide a measure of saftey but routinely are selectively enforced as a revenue stream due to the inability of the government to provide sufficent manpower to enforce the rules universially.

    The fact that the law itself would be dead in the water as being in conflict with the Bill of Rights is a concern, but not the primary one. That issue is readily resolveable through the normal legal processes. Our legal system has, to my satisfaction at least, shown the ability to police itself that far at least.

    The issue that lawmakers put forward suggested laws which (regarless of their constitutionality) have no real means of universal enforcement is of more concern because that is directly what Ayn's quote is warning of. Passing of laws which, for whatever the intent was, work to make all men criminals.

    The point of her quote isn't that if everyone breaks the law, everyone goes to jail. It's that if everyone breaks the law, the government will selectively arrest just those who cause a problem for 'them'.
  • by Weaselmancer ( 533834 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @02:56PM (#22705766)

    Simple, they'd say, it's the ISP's responsibility ;)

    First off, I have no idea why this got modded to -1 because that's exactly what they'll most likely do.

    The problem is, how would an ISP manage this with any degree of certainty? What is to stop me from logging in to Slashdot using Tor [] and giving any contact info I wish?

    And let's say I do bully someone and it goes to court. Taco could wind up paying thousands in fines for it. So let's say that happens and he decided to get tough and crack down on false IDs.

    How do you do it?

    The answer is the same one you'd give if you were trying to comply to the "no rain on Thursdays" law. You can't.

    So this is a law that is impossible to comply with, even if you wanted to in the first place. That's why it's a bad idea. Well that, and the whole "right to privacy" thing, which is another discussion.

  • by Prison Rodeo ( 1253968 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @03:00PM (#22705844)
    The question is not whether or not the law is enforceable.

    The question is whether this bill will help Rep. Couch get reelected in his little corner of Kentucky come November.

    (I'd bet $0.11 it does).

    2008 is an election year. Expect to see a lot more of this sort of thing, coming soon to a legislature near you.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 10, 2008 @03:42PM (#22706588)
    is the assumption that bullies will not bully people if they have to give their name. This has never been my experience. I can think of many important current radio hosts, for example, or politicians as another example, who don't mind being bullies even though everyone knows their name.
  • by fishbowl ( 7759 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @03:43PM (#22706606)
    >The major problem I have with these kinds of laws aren't IF they are enforcable, but how much the enforcement will cost and who will pay for it.

    So you totally miss the part about it being illegal to establish a prior restraint on free speech, or for government
    to introduce a "chilling effect" on what is otherwise a First Amendment protected activity.

    This legislation would be fought from so many different angles, it's almost amusing.

    Conservatives will not want to be forced to reveal their identities when speaking on political forums.
    Liberals will not want their right to speak in opposition to government policy.

    Consider what happens when people from the health professions start to talk about the effect on things like
    support forums for victims of sexual assault, or when representatives of the law enforcement community bring
    up the threat that is posed when anonymous reporting of crimes is suppressed.

    How will the stock traders react when they discover they can't be anonymous on the message boards?

    There are so many people that would oppose this legislation, it cuts through practically every walk of life.
  • by robertjw ( 728654 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @03:54PM (#22706810) Homepage
    Nah, they'll still pass all sorts of crazy, expensive, and worthless laws only then they'll all have tax increase riders attached.

    Actually, the probably wouldn't. The one thing the public cares about, and politicians are afraid of, is raising taxes. Lawmakers will go out of their way to avoid having anything that looks like a tax increase in their record. That's why the country just borrows trillions of dollars, steals from the social security funds, . If they raised taxes to cover all costs of Iraq, the War on Drugs, and whatever else, there would be riots in the streets. You need to go back and play some civ, AOE, Empire Earth or sim city. People get PISSED when you raise taxes.
  • by fishbowl ( 7759 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @04:02PM (#22706948)
    >Why the hell doesn't someone sue one of these idiots for breach of trust?

    Because they face re-election every few years. If they are supported by their constituents,
    they return to office. If lawmakers were subject to legal threats every time they proposed
    something, there would be so much abuse that would make today's level of corruption look like
    child's play.

    Consider that a state assemblyman represents a rather limited group of constituents, and is
    a pretty small voice in a pretty big crowd. He is small potatoes even by Kentucky standards,
    representing a county of about 25,000 population, under 30 percent of them high schoolgraduates,
    where the average income is $16,000 and the average home value under $10,000.

    Think about these numbers, and then ask yourself how much influence you think Rep. Tim Couch has,
    and how likely it is for this bill to get past committee.
  • The other option is to refuse to business in Kentucky.

    GeoIP to prevent anyone from Kentucky from buying a subscription, anyone?
  • Re:What? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Kadin2048 ( 468275 ) <> on Monday March 10, 2008 @06:30PM (#22709130) Homepage Journal
    The answer is because they have immunity. I think the GP assumed that you knew this, since virtually all public officials have personal immunity from civil suits when acting in the performance of their duties in the U.S., outside of some fairly narrowly-defined exceptions. He was more getting into the issue of why public officials have immunity -- it's because the solution to a misbehaving politician isn't supposed to be a lawsuit, it's voting them out the next time they're up for reelection.

    Since lawsuits could be used by a powerful minority to effectively hamstring the government, producing potentially very undemocratic outcomes, there's always been a strong tendency towards limiting their use (the other big example would be the blanket prohibition on suing the government itself, except where the government itself allows it, via sovereign immunity).
  • by robertjw ( 728654 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @08:15PM (#22710280) Homepage

    But in an age of total fiat currency, there is little need to raise taxes. By printing more money, they've essentially raised taxes on our savings, without most people even understanding it. Most people will blame the lose of their purchasing power on the rising prices of oil or something, but that's just blaming the symptoms.

    Exactly, that's what started this whole discussion. Until there is some way to enforce some type of fiscal responsibility on the government. Government officials need to account for these grandiose schemes they have - we have to stop letting them just print/borrow money.

    If you were to add up all the taxes, fees, cost of compliance with tax laws and cost of real inflation, and spell it out for people, then you'd see that rioting in the streets you mention.
    If you could make people understand, but I don't think you ever will. I would LOVE to see a president get into office that consolidated all of the tax code into something like a flat sales tax. We have allowed lawmakers to hide tax by scattering it around and making employers and merchants pay it. Most people have no idea how much they pay, and figure if their boss pays their unemployment and social security for them it doesn't actually come out of their wages.

    Of course, everyone feels so powerless to stop it... not sure what anyone can do, but watch the meltdown.
  • If you look at your link, it says that the point where revenue starts to go down is probably around 80% tax.
    I think we can both agree we're still pretty far from this.
  • by Hotawa Hawk-eye ( 976755 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @10:19PM (#22711198)
    Here's his official web feedback form []. Note that while it requires you to provide your name and address, nothing validates that those are actually your real name and address. You might want to point that out to the representative.

The only possible interpretation of any research whatever in the `social sciences' is: some do, some don't. -- Ernest Rutherford