New York state lawmakers Dean Murray (R) and Thomas O'Mara (R) have proposed bills that would either unmask anonymous commenters by public request, or force website administrators to delete anonymous comments. The bills (A.8688 and S.6779) would require New York-based websites to provide a toll-free phone number or e-mail address for the public to use to file complaints about anonymous comments. If a complaint is filed, websites would be required to contact the anonymous offender, who would be given a 48 hour window to identify themselves as the author of the post — after which, administrators would be required to delete the post if no identity is provided.
2. 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.
The bill may have no realistic chance of success, but it's yet another example of lawmakers in the United States attempting at the same time to comprehend and control the internet — a place they find untamed and dangerous. As The Legislative Gazette reports, New York Assemblyman Peter Lopez (R) says that the internet is like the "wild west: almost anything goes," and asks "how do we take a resource that is so beneficial and make sure it is used properly? Make sure we are civilized as we conduct ourselves in the use of that resource?" The bill's sponsor, O'Mara, says that it "will help lend some accountability to the internet age."