NYC councilman rails against ‘Big Brother on the Internet’ bill

Steven Nelson Associate Editor
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New York City Councilman Daniel Halloran isn’t pleased that fellow Republicans in the New York state legislature are trying to ban anonymous online speech.

“This is an unconstitutional attempt by New York State to play Big Brother on the Internet,” said Halloran. “Will it soon be illegal to publish an anonymous novel or distribute an anonymous work of art?”

The bill, the “Internet Protection Act,” is being sponsored by approximately half of the Republicans in the New York State Assembly and by one Republican state senator.

If enacted, the legislation would require websites — including social networks and online newspapers — to remove all anonymous comments.

State Senate sponsor Thomas O’Mara told TheDC last week that he had not initially considered that the bill could violate people’s First Amendment rights.

UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh told TheDC that the bill was “clearly unconstitutional” and that “the Supreme Court has held for 50 years that anonymous speech is protected.”

“Thankfully,” said Halloran, “if this bill does become law, it will be overturned by the courts, because it runs roughshod over the First Amendment.”

Halloran is currently seeking to represent New York’s 6th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. The newly drawn district includes part of the area represented by outgoing Republican Rep. Bob Turner. (SEE ALSO: New York considers comment crackdown)

Unlike many downstate Republicans, Halloran is a supporter of gun rights, notably advocating on behalf of Indiana resident Ryan Jerome, a one-time Marine who faced the possibility of a stiff prison sentence for accidentally violating New York’s gun laws.

“Our state has an enormous budget deficit and crushing unemployment,” said Halloran. “The legislature has better things to do than invade the privacy of Internet users.”

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