A recently introduced bill in the Illinois state Senate would require anonymous website comment posters to reveal their identities if they want to keep their comments online.
The bill, called the Internet Posting Removal Act, is sponsored by Illinois state Sen. Ira Silverstein. It states that a “web site administrator upon request shall remove any comments posted on his or her web site 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.”
The Democratic lawmaker’s bill, which does not ask for or clarify requirements from entities requesting the comment removal, would take effect 90 days after becoming law.
Pseudonymous and anonymous comments have long been a critical part of U.S. public discourse, though, and the bill may be on shaky legal ground.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) noted on its website that the “right to anonymous speech is also protected well beyond the printed page.”
“Thus in 2002 the Supreme Court struck down a law requiring proselytizers to register their true names with the mayor’s office before going door-to-door,” wrote EFF, noting that the Supreme Court protects Internet commentary as it does pamphleteering.
The bill is part of a larger trend of lawmakers seeking to censor anonymous online speech.
The New York State Assembly sought the passage of a similar bill in May 2012, and Arizona lawmakers worked to ban Internet trolling altogether in April 2012. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed the bill into law in May 2012, but only after the contentious language was cut.
Local lawmakers took similar action in Tennessee in 2012, when the Shelby County Commission pressed for a court order to reveal the identities of online commentators who posted nearly 9,000 comments on Memphis news site, Commercial Appeal.
Silverstein did not return The Daily Caller’s request for comment.