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Meet the Internet Posting Removal Act, an Illinois Bill That’ll Make Your Head Spin

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Meet the Internet Posting Removal Act, an Illinois Bill That’ll Make Your Head Spin
[ Technology]

State lawmakers all across the country busy at work crafting ridiculous, head-spinning laws can take the day off. There is no way they can top this.

A new bill proposed in the Illinois State Senate looks to completely wipe out any form of anonymity on the internet by requiring that the operators of basically any website on the entire internet take down any comment that isn’t attached to an IP, address, and real name-verified poster.

It’s called the Internet Posting Removal Act and was introduced on February 13th by Illinois General Assembly veteran Ira I. Silverstein [D].

What do you think about anonymity of the internet? What circumstances (if any) should an internet commenter be forced to divulge their real identity? Let us know in the comments.

Here’s the summary of the bill:

Creates the Internet Posting Removal Act. Provides that a web site administrator shall, upon request, remove any posted comments posted by an anonymous poster unless the 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. Effective 90 days after becoming law.

Not wanting to leave any bases uncovered, Silverstein includes that an “Anonymous Poster” means “any individual who posts a message on a web site including social networks, blogs, forums, message boards, or any other discussion site where people can hold conversations in the form of posted messages.”

Silverstein also proposes that “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.”

Beyond the obvious questions about self-verification of IP addresses (?) and home addresses (wow), the logistics of this thing are mind-boggling at best. Any comment on any site that has commenting? That would not just include sites like CNN.com, Mashable, WebProNews and others. This could be taken to mean any type of social media like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or large online communities like reddit and 4chan.

And what about the constitutionality angle?

The Electronic Frontier Foundation notes that “anonymous communications have an important place in our political and social discourse,” and that this is an idea that’s been upheld by the Supreme Court. They cite a particular decision (McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission, 1995):

Protections for anonymous speech are vital to democratic discourse. Allowing dissenters to shield their identities frees them to express critical minority views…Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority…It thus exemplifies the purpose behind the Bill of Rights and of the First Amendment in particular: to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation…at the hand of an intolerant society.

“These long-standing rights to anonymity and the protections it affords are critically important for the Internet. As the Supreme Court has recognized the Internet offers a new and powerful democratic forum in which anyone can become a “pamphleteer” or “a town crier with a voice that resonates farther than it could from any soapbox,” says the EFF.

Of course, this isn’t the first legislative attempt to limit anonymous speech on the internet. Back in 2012, a nearly identical bill was proposed in the New York State Assembly that would’ve required site admins to restrict any comments that didn’t have “IP address, legal name, and home address” attached to the post.

Like many bills that limit free and anonymous speech, this NY bill was hidden behind a hot-button issue. In its case, cyberbullying.

“It’s an effort to deal with the problem. I’m hopeful that this will be helpful in combating that,” Sponsor Thomas O’Mara explained, “or at least get a dialog going with the industry about this concern.”

But is punishing anonymity the right course of action?

When people who have no idea how the internet actually works start drafting laws, this is what happens. This isn’t the first, nor the last bill of this type that will hit state legislatures. More than likely, this bill will never make it out of committee (it’s been referred to assignments). But the simple knowledge that this kind of thing could even exist is enough to make me want a drink.

What do you think? Is a bill like this even constitutional? Are you concerned about legislative attempts to remove anonymity from the internet? Let us know in the comments.

[h/t reddit]

Meet the Internet Posting Removal Act, an Illinois Bill That’ll Make Your Head Spin
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  • http://pain-and-depression.com sgl3213

    My online support group prides itself on anonymity ensuring members privacy when discussing sensitive personal issues. Requiring name, address would force these people to tell their abusers, tormentors, neighbors, etc. exactly who/where they are and prohibit them from participating in a support group. I am bedridden so physically attending meetings or group sessions is out of the question which is the reason for a private, online support group.

    I guess next they are going to require all conversations between doctors and patients, priests and confessors, therapists and patients, bankers and customers, etc. to be done in the mall, recorded and published!

  • http://www.shoppingmalldc.com Phillip at Shoppingmalldc.com

    Really that’s over the line in freedom of the press and should not even see the likes of becoming a law on the grounds of constitutionality, the freedom of speech and press is a right that should not be intruded on by any state laws, no matter if it be on the internet in the form of print expression liked or not as it is the press print media T.V. right by amendment of the US Constitution… but if it does become law in that state it should be given legal contentment in a immediate lawsuit on free speech and print no mater were or in what form here is one to that type of law go fuck your self law…

  • http://www.mycountryrealestate.com.au Wilf Staton

    Hmm,

    This does seem to go against what America is purported to be a free country.

    I guess next Brits, will on Speakers Corner pass a law saying the speakers will have to state ther full name, address and telephone number before they speak.

    Apart from this, if a law like this was ever passed I guess we would see a shift of sites and hosting facilities shift overseas to countries where this will still be free speach. So what will this law fix.

  • http://www.johnmichaelchristian@gmail.com Dr. John Michael Christian

    This may simply be a means by the lawmakers of Illinois to prevent posting on sites in such a way that there is no accountability, but requiring a home address is not a good idea for a number of reasons. First and foremost being that there have been people murdered who’s killers found them on Google Maps and Streets. There have also been cases where the killer went to the wrong house and killed someone other than his intended target.

    It is an unfortunate and extremely sad state of affairs that we would prey on one another like we do in this country, but it is happening. So, to have to provide a home address just to post could potentially have the effect of stopping a great many people from posting out of concern for their own safety, and were that the case, social media would end very abruptly.

    In defense of requiring an IP address and at least a verifiable email, it is, at the moment far too easy for someone to put an anonymous and even slanderous post on a website that isn’t regulated by the owner, and on some sites it is virtually impossible to remove them short of getting an attorney involved or a court order.

    Having seen some of the cruel, ignorant and even slanderous posts on the web, and particularly on YouTube, it is clear that there needs to be some accountability, but I do not believe this is the answer. I believe a far better solution would be to do what the owners of Craigslist have done and provide a means of allowing a post to be “flagged” by other users so that the software in the system can then delete it.

    This seems to me to be an excellent way of regulating posts that gets the same job done as I believe the lawmakers and creators of this bill are intending, but it would allow us to regulate ourselves rather than having yet more Big Brother laws forced upon us.
    Sincerely,
    Dr. John Michael Christian

  • http://www.gsx1.com marco

    It seems to me that whoever is proposing this law doesn’t know what it would take to actually put it into practice, and the futility of even trying to do such a preposterous thing.

  • http://fatlossonly.com/ Steve@The Diet Solution

    They must be running short on criminals in Illinois if they are looking to enact this bill. If you don’t comply, then they will fine you. if you don’t pay then they will lock you up? That is laughable. Good luck enforcing it.

  • Bernard McMinn

    My atlas tells me that Illinois is in North America. Good to see that it asserts legislative power in Australia, and Gabon, and Chad etc. The temptation to be impolite is almost over-powering.

  • Frann leach

    If enacted I’ll use geotagging to exclude illinois visitors

    • Robert

      Excellent idea!!!!!!!!

  • D

    Wonder if the first amendment means anything at all to this man?
    This blatant attempt to stifle free speech will only boomerang against this would be censor and his ilk. Count on it.

  • Robert

    OK well this is outlandishly ridiculous and preposterous that peoples HOME address and PHONE number, and name be provided with every minor posting or comment. OMG what a bunch of idiot. Why are they even making such a stupid proposal. They want NO privacy anywhere for anyone other than themselves. BIG BROTHER comes from the very one who have been voted in by us. BOOT them all, they are evil, corrupt, controlling, and at the same time Out of Control. VOTE them all OUT now! Stand up America, your rights are being stolen from you daily, and yet you are still dead asleep.

  • Robert

    So imagine the Physhing scripts that would be written to farm addresses from posted comments on all the sites around the world…. Criminals would know your home address if they didn’t agree with you bashing their gangster lifestyle they could just roll on by and fire bomb your house without having anyone know how they got your name or address. But worse off id the GOV. wanting to know where the dissenting people live so they can DRONE your neighborhood, TAP your phone, and eavesdrop on all your activities….. STAND UP AMERICA! STAND UP NOW! Before it’s too late. BOOT these GOOF BALLS out of office and lets get some Progressive thinkers in place soon.

  • http://www.cpasitesolutions.com/ kenny

    The sheer idiocy and technological incompetence of our lawmakers never fails to astound me. It almost seems like there is a deliberate conspiracy to drive e-business and online innovation out of the country entirely. Any 5th grader in the US could easily sit down and scroll off a half a dozen reasons why this is just plain stupid, and yet full grown adults in suits pulling down 5+ figure salaries and armed with taxpayer funded staffs, men and women whose only job is to research problems and set public policy, don’t know any better.

    It’s mind boggling.

  • https://www.amazon.com/author/joelsavage-1957 Joel Savage
  • http://homebizthatpays.com travis

    this is complete bs . its bad enough that google has all our phones tied to our emails. microsoft has the new windows 8 that does exactly the same – cant sign on with out using a email and apple you started this bs with your i products !
    if we do not want every living soul getting our info that is our business !
    if we do not want some physco stalker killing our kids ,robbing our homes and our raping our women that should be our fking right !

  • Rickie W

    What Kind Of Nut Would Even Think Of Something Like This

  • lukazzz666

    Having idiots posting racist ideals and bullying others is no reason to deprive citizens of such vital prerogative to freedom of speech as the rights to anonymity. I hope as a citizen of the world that you Americans fight back against this stupidity, and I bet the rest of the world is with you on that issue.

  • michael taylor

    If you want to say something, don’t be afraid of who you are.

    • Jacob Michaelson

      That’s easy for you to say but do some research to what happen to many of the signors of the Declaration of Independence who were imprisoned and even killed for signing onto the greatest document in the world at the time. Then you can see why the constitution guarantees free speech and why we should be able to remain anonymous to remain without fear to exercise that right when something critical needs to be said. I am a descendant of one of those signors and Americans need to learn about what really happened and the sacrifices that were made to guarantee our freedoms before compromising with these modern day politicians who mostly want to advance their careers.

  • http://www.ssrichardmontgomery.com ron

    This cant work and the test court case will be interesting. Just one small example if the server where the site was is in uk or Europe and the person making the comment was in a country other than usa then it would be totally out of the jurisdiction of any usa court even although people in the usa could still view content. When they replied to whatever their comment would also be outside of usa. Legal unenforceable minefield.

  • Kat Johnson

    As a person who works for an agency that helps victims of domestic violence, I can see times when a person who has been a victim and is seeking information or help would be at risk if their real name/location were ‘outed’

  • http://www.KgTech.in Karthic

    There are many cases where powerful people kills civilians for raising voice against them. Anonymity was the only option for civilians to talk truth without fearing anybody, and now they are controlled and they can’t open their mouth. And powerful people will have a good time anymore as there would not be any single comment against them. Where are we going? It’s better to not use these technologies which is controlling everyone of us.

  • John

    How would this fool suggest it be enforced in say Russia, China, Iran or any number of other countries that just snicker at our laws? I suspect that Assemblyman Silverstein’s technical expertise wouldn’t enable him to know the difference between a laptop and an Etch-A-Sketch.

  • http://www.webdesignoptimizare.ro Theodore

    i still cant’t belive that’s real…this is not happening…
    Also Facebook, (Twiter) and Google have all our infos (for the last one with the mention that for starting a G+ account must provide real name).
    From time to time, hackers are trying to get all these data – some of them are succesful – and have all the names, adresses, phone numbers, friends, family – we are all exposed anyway.

  • http://www.7search.com Robert Payne

    This is not surprising, as I live in the People’s Republic of Illinois, and unfortunately I live in Ira Silverstein’s district, and that of the infamous Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky. I have tried to get both booted out of office, but I am surrounded by low information voters.

    • Jacob Michaelson

      …and it sounds like with a bill like this they want to keep the “low information voters” in there place. Such a pity

    • Lydie

      I feel your pain bro. :-)

  • bryan

    Another example of moronic type of people we have in office. We really need to vote people like this out of office.

    The implications of a bill like this are staggering. Inquiries on abuse sites, lawyer sites, medical sites, consumer complaint sites – anyone commenting here.

    The fundamental right to privacy should not be usurped by the rantings of people you do not agree with (which, by the way, is covered under freedom of speech).

    Nearly every country in the world recognizes a right of privacy explicitly in their Constitution. At a minimum, these provisions include rights of inviolability of the home and secrecy of communications.

    In many of the countries where privacy is not explicitly recognized in the Constitution, such as the United States, Ireland and India, the courts have found that right in other provisions

    http://gilc.org/privacy/survey/intro.html

    Fundamental rights should be sacrosanct, less we tread down the path of the police state.

  • Jacob Michaelson

    This is completely unenforceable anyway. I don’t live in Illinois and will not be subject to their tyrannical attempt to limit my free speech! As an exercise of my free speech it is my right to (without fear) tell this egotistical Illinois representative to get a life and stop trying to take away citizen held rights in an attempt to further his career. His constituents should be offended by this and send him a pink slip in the next election. The First Amendment will never die as long as I have something to say about it and I DO! Thank you Web Pro News for allowing me this forum to voice my opinion. :)

  • http://clockerscorner.com Omar Yul Montes de Oca

    Swatting a fly with a sledge hammer.

  • IMBack?

    Out with the old and in with the new. Just a bunch of old, aging idiots who dont understand the internet trying to stop someone from saying their product or service sucks. Good luck, you’re suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuure gonna need it. It sucks it sucks. Could care less about a law like this, move domains and hosting offshore if I had to. These people are a joke.

  • http://www.graciousstore.com Nina

    What is the reason or the motive behind this bill? What problem will this bill solve

  • donny price

    This person needs to be voted out of office. Just another way for control of the media, he doesn’t have a clue about the internet but he’s scary because of what he’s really trying to do which is control the American people. Get out and vote some new intelligent people into office America!

  • http://officewife.biz Connie

    Now this person really has tooooo much time to dwell. Sounds like something horrid in his mind was said and he cannot find the person guilty because it was signed by anonymous. :)

    The only time I would consider this nonsense legit, is in the instance of a crime. Then, yes, find the person and punish.

    Otherwise, leave me to be anonymous and invisible if that is what I wish.

  • Roy

    So. if a business competitor anonymously and prominently posts horrific defamatory information and optimizes the posting, shouldn’t the injured party or business have a way to remove the defamatory post from the website, blog, or forum? Wouldn’t anonymous postings done for the purpose of ruining the reputation of a business competitor be considered as a form of cyber terrorism? This is a very common way for one business to hurt a competing business.

  • Lydie

    This is total delirium! ROFL.

    These censorious legislators are clueless as to how the internet works, and evidently have never posted a comment themselves.

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