Rep. Couch Feeling Heat from Ban on Anonymous Web Postings

By: Abby Johnson - March 12, 2008

WebProNews previously reported how Kentucky State Representative, Tim Couch, proposed a bill that would not allow Kentuckians to comment anonymously on the Internet.

Kentucky State Representative, Tim Couch
Kentucky State Representative, Tim Couch

In summary, House Bill 775 would require anyone who wants to leave a comment on a Web site to register their real name, address, and e-mail address with the Web site. They would be expected to use their real name whenever they commented. Web site operators who would not abide by the law would be fined $500 for the first offense and $1,000 for any additional violation.

Considering how powerful the issue is, the WebProNews video department tried repeatedly to contact Representative Tim Couch for a video interview. When Mr. Couch returned our calls, he declined the interview saying he was overwhelmed with the feedback this bill has brought.

Mr.Couch says his name has been slashed all over the blogosphere for this bill. I tried to persuade him the interview would give him the opportunity to explain to the blogosphere his original intentions, but he still declined saying:

“I only wanted to make a statement, and I did.”

Mr. Couch told me over the phone that he is being attacked on the Internet. He has received countless e-mails and phone calls not only at his office, but also at his home. His daughter received a call that contained severe “foul language.”

He said, “I am not a Communist,” like he thinks the blogosphere is making him out to be.

On the Lexington Herald-Leader blog, Pol Watchers, John Cheves gives the explanation that Mr. Couch was trying to protect the children in his district.

"Some nasty things have been said about high school kids in my district, usually by other kids. The adults get in on it, too."

Drew Curtis of the famous, which is based in Kentucky, wrote, “Kentucky lawmaker wants to r-u-n-n-o-f-t largest website in the state. Drew looking forward to moving Fark to the Cayman Islands.”

Mr. Couch also told WebProNews that he does not think the bill will go anywhere especially after the strong response he’s received. He said he would like the negativity to stop, and he’s very busy at the moment working on the state budget.

Abby Johnson

About the Author

Abby JohnsonAbby Johnson is a reporter for WebProNews. Google: Google+

View all posts by Abby Johnson
  • Donald

    I think Mr. Couch has quite good intentions. 

    You look at the number of internet stalking type offences that escape the law – two highly  publicised ones alone in the last day.

    You look at how easy it is to upload things on u tube and the like, criminal things for that matter.

    Making people responsible for their words and uploads has much merit for protecting innocent people, including children.

    I don’t know if Mr Couch has the solution, but at least someone is really trying to get this criminal element under control.

    If someone knows a better way of keeping this area controlled, lets hear it, but lets not shoot the messenger that something really needs to be done NOW.  To many people are really getting hurt – young people.

    Only today I heard about the girl who was cyber stalked, then got run over by two teenagers doing the cyber stalking.  Another 18 year old had her parents address blasted all ove the internet with hate mail about them, because the daughter had taken a restraining order out on his cyberstalking – but he’s still doing it.

    You have to agree, something has to be done, as these people don’t care who they hurt.

  • David

    Hopefully the voters in Kentucky will grasp the severity of big brother Representative Couch wants to impose on them and vote or impeach him out of office.

    Politicians are adept at using fear mongering tactics to scare people into giving up control to them.  There will ALWAYS be inhumanity to man because that’s how it’s suppose to be.  The real issue is how can we deal with the ugliness of the world without destroying life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

  • C.R.

    Big brother, in this case Rep. Couch can’t legislate away life’s hurts, no matter how many laws they might enact. The American people have the right to anonymity and anonymous free speech. First Amendment rights are vital to America–and when its taken away a large part of what it means to be American is taken away. Rep. Couch is an incompetent fool and UnAmerican!

    • Guest

      Right–punish those who are misbehaving–don’t restrict free speech and punish those who are not misbehaving. One size does not fit all–duh!

  • Jason Lee Miller

    While I agree, Mr. Crooks, that comments should be civil and level-headed, just like they should be (and often aren’t) in real life, I have to take issue wiht this statement:

    By and large, reasonable, decent people who are more interested in proving a point and sharing their ideas and opinions reasonably (no matter how unreasonable their opinion or idea is) will have no problem with Rep. Couches bill.

    You were the voice of reason until that statement. I think I’m decent and reasonable, but I have huge problems with Rep. Couch’s bill.

    1. Heart in the right place or not, outlawing anonymous speech is a First Amendment violation. Protection of anonymity is vital to a free society where whistleblowers would be otherwise too scared to speak up against abuses of power. Those that would outlaw anonymity might also outlaw a journalist’s right to protect his or her sources.

    2. I don’t believe there is a place in legislation for “symbolic” bills submitted just to make a point. A) It’s useless and a waste of time. B) If by some miracle it got enough votes to pass (in this instance) we have the aforementioned problem with free speech as well as the problem of how exactly it will be enforced. C) It seems an unnecessary risk of civil liberties. If you want to make a public statement, look into public service announcements, which are designed to raise awareness about issues just like this — issues that can’t be legislated.

    3. It’s still not clear to me that Couch properly researched this topic or relied solely on local anecdotes. Whether or not it is local in its development, it’s still not clear to me if Couch looked to see if this bill would conflict with laws in other states, which become an issue because this would by and large be an interstate issue. For example, I believe it’s illegal in Michigan for someone to post other people’s addresses online. This is a privacy and safety measure. What’s to control for people faking it?

    There are so many problems with this bill I can hardly list them, and I can’t believe one my state reps thought it was a good idea to introduce it, symbolically or not, even though he had no plans to back it up in the General Assembly.

    Despite a heart in the right place (and yes, bullying is a problem but this is not the solution), it’s seems monumentally futile and stupid to do such a thing. Hence all the backlash.

  • Guest

    How do you run over someone when you are cyberstalking them?  Seriously though, all the harassment cases you outlined are things that are actually crimes already. 

    If stalking is a concern to you, why would you want people posting their real names?  That would invite stalking and harassment .   You’re too nice to Couch.  If one proposes some symbolic law, they should at least not make it stupid. 

  • Guest

    I, among other people, had a problem with a couple of cyberstalkers who were posting libellous comments about me on a USENET newsgroup – both of them, oddly enough, were attorneys.  The problem abated eventually, possibly because one of the attorneys was located in a county where two other attorneys were disbarred for committing Internet libel.

    They were also forging posts to Web sites using my name, an act which is a crime under Federal law.  Fortunately for them, fighting terminal cancer is a full-time job and thus I haven’t had the time or resources to punish them appropriately.   Who knows – with any luck they’ll discover the wonderful world of metastatic cancer, too.

  • Guest

    thanks! i wasted a good part of yesterday until i found this article.

  • Mariah Carey

    Era of Web 3.0? is stepping on our toes?

  • Guest

    Jesus christ all these commentors have no idea about how the internet works.

    A system like this is already in-effect, if someone posts something illegal or does something illegal[Like download child porn, make a website about pirated materials with direct links, post direct links to pirated materials], they can and do get tracked by the website owner[If the owner doesn’t act, it’s a felony]. Sure there are ways to avoid it[Such as a proxy], but the majority of people are stupid and don’t understand what they are doing and get caught if it’s something severe.

    It’s not even about freedom, it’s about the internet and how it works, it will make everything annoyingly difficult. It will solve NO problems.

    What stops a person from registering under someone else and then posting something criminal, therefor getting the person in trouble with the law?

    Shit like this only makes more problems then it solves.

    Hell cyber stalking isn’t too hard to do, but if you can request a person’s name and address, it will make it so least experianced people can do it and cause even more problems, and how can you trust websites with that info? How do you know they won’t sell it to companies that will send you spam spam and more spam?

    TL;DR No.

  • Bryant

    Donald, you say that it should be passed, because then people would be able to track down cyberstalkers? While thats a noble idea, how about the fact that if every single person in KY were required to post their addresses, names, emails, etc… Wouldnt that make the internet a proverbial BUFFET of cyber stalking victims? I mean MySpace, Facebook, and YouTube are bad enough… But to make someone have to have their full contact information disclosed to be able to comment on a blog post similar to this one, would make it so easy for someone to track me, or you, down, and run US over with a car.

  • Anonymous

    So it should be made easier for bullies to find their victims IRL, and for pedophiles to find theirs?

    Not only is your support of this bill poorly thought out, it is illogical at its very core. You should be ashamed at your very obvious stupidity.

  • Hemeroids

    Of course Mr. Couch is not a communist. But building a censorship/surveillance system like in China is not the right way either.