NJ’s dumb bill on anonymity

New Jersey Assemblyman Peter Biondi has proposed a numbskulled, unconstitutional, offensive, and downright stupid bill that would force operators of internet services — presumably, forums, chats, blog hosts, web hosts, perhaps even email services and ISPs and bloggers themselves — to require and obtain legal names and addresses for anyone who posts online… or else the services can be sued for anything false or defamatory posters say. To (dim)wit:

…2. The operator of any interactive computer service or an Internet service provider shall establish, maintain and enforce a policy to require any information content provider who posts written messages on a public forum website either to be identified by a legal name and address, or to register a legal name and address with the operator of the interactive computer service or the Internet service provider through which the information content provider gains access to the interactive computer service or Internet, as appropriate.

3. An operator of an interactive computer service or an Internet service provider shall establish and maintain reasonable procedures to enable any person to request and obtain disclosure of the legal name and address of an information content provider who posts false or defamatory information about the person on a public forum website.

4. Any person who is damaged by false or defamatory written messages that originate from an information content provider who posts such messages on a public forum website may file suit in Superior Court against an operator or provider that fails to establish, maintain and enforce the policy required pursuant to section 2 of P.L. , c. (C.) (pending before the Legislature as this bill), and may recover compensatory and punitive damages and the cost of the suit, including a reasonable attorney’s fee, cost of investigation and litigation from such operator or provider.

Assemblyman Biondi: My name is Jeff Jarvis. I live in your state. In fact, I live in your own district. What a coincidence, eh? Well, I will vote against you. Again. I will campaign against you. I will stand on streetcorners to tell my neighbors what I think of you. You are a blooming idiot. I get to say that because this is America, damnit.

Your idiotic bill is a violation of my rights of free speech and privacy. It is utterly impossible to enforce. It contradicts federal law in Section 230 of the Communcations Decency Act, the only section of that act that was left standing by the Supreme Court. Says Wikipedia:

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act added valuable protection for online service providers and users from action against them for the actions of others, stating in part that “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider”. Effectively, this section immunizes ISPs and other service providers from torts committed by users over their systems.

See also this on anonymity and this from a case in Delaware about a blogger:

As the United States Supreme Court recently noted, “anonymous pamphleteering is not a pernicious, fraudulent practice, but an honorable tradition of advocacy and dissent.” The United States Supreme Court continued, “[t]he right to remain anonymous may be abused when it shields fraudulent conduct. But political speech by its nature will sometimes have unpalatable consequences, and, in general, our society accords greater weight to the value of free speech than to the dangers of its misuse.”

We are concerned that setting the standard too low will chill potential posters from exercising their First Amendment right to speak anonymously. The possibility of losing anonymity in a future lawsuit could intimidate anonymous posters into self-censoring their comments or simply not commenting at all.

And here’s what a voter, the anonymous “Darklight,” says on the NJ.com Somerset County forum (a service I started and the one that reportedly irritated Biondi):

Go there and we’ll fix bayonets and march on Trenton.

I’m a conservative dude and I think dems have come pretty damn close to ruining this state, but this Biondi thing leads me to believe that he’s a horse’s *ss and part of the reason why traditionalists fail to stick in NJ. He’s overeacting to some people speaking freely in forums because of their anonimity. That sounds like a good thing. If it also gives a few folks the chance to take some pot shots then que sera sera, it might be worth it for the unfettered truth that sometimes sheds light and makes people think.

Anyway, much respect to your forum here Somerset. I expected it to be crazy. I’m sure nj.com will give you my name Mr. Biondi and you can bring charges for the horse’s *ss comment.

: UPDATE: The Ledger reports that Biondi is now reconsidering his bill. But I’m not reconsidering my opinion of him. Anyone this ignorant should not be in office.

: Here’s the Biondi buzz on Technorati.

  • http://marginalizingmorons.blogspot.com/ CaptiousNut

    I was surprised to not see you post on this news earlier.

    Biondi may have just as well tattooed MORON on his forehead.

    Even scarier than this one idiot is the idea that politics is riddled with countless other people just as ignorant.

  • http://www.stayathomedad001.iblogs.com Joe

    The gaming community came up with a great word for people like Mr. Biondi: n00b. In his perfect world, where this bill stands a chance, lunatics like him would be stalking every 14 year old kid who floods a catholic message board with links to satanic verses.

    The internet is working just fine without his input.

  • John M

    Well said, Jeff. I’ll join you on the street corners of NJ to rally support and stop this clown from trying to use this position for political gain.

  • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

    I’m going to have to ask you all for ID. And blood tests, while you’re at it.

  • Mark

    I wish I lived in his district.

    Fortunately, I feel pretty confident that even the Dems that always win in my own aren’t as dumb as he is, so there’s no chance he’ll get anywhere with this incredibly stupid idea.

    No wonder the Reps can’t win majorities in NJ, with Reps like him they don’t deserve to.

  • Mumblix Grumph

    This does not bode well for those of us fond of tossing the anonymous snark grenade.

  • http://www.unfetteredblather.com Jason O

    Ironic that at the same time some politicians are learning how the leverage blogging, we have dinosaurs like this around who simply don’t understand the technology. Sadly, his display of ignorance will be obvious to all but himself.

  • http://www.blaserco.com/blogs Britt Blaser

    Jeff,

    I just left this email message at Peter Biondi’s lame email site :

    “Mr. Bondi, You are an old, stupid man. Your bill is preposterous on the face of it.

    FYI, being old, like you, is no excuse for being stupid. I’m just 4 months younger than you, and I have had enough interest in the future to understand the most important scientific and cultural phenomenon of our time: the Internet.

    I will drive down there and stand by your constituents to get you voted out of office. I can’t vote in NJ, but I can bring your constituents coffee and doughnuts and monetary and moral support.

    If you object to me calling you stupid, I will be happy to arrange a question and answer session, on TV and the Internet, whereby you can demonstrate to your constituents that you are proposing to regulate something about which you do not have a clue.

    A hundred years ago, Mr. Biondi, people as stupid as you were investing in buggy whip factories.”

    Britt Blaser

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  • http://www.filmbuffonline.com Rich Drees

    This just reinforces something I said to a co-worker yesterday- “They got it wrong in high school chemistry classes. Hydrogen isn’t the most abundant element in the universe. Stupidity is.”

  • Right of Center

    The anonymous publishing of ideas has no place in the history of democracy.

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  • http://amomentwith.typepad.com/ Easycure

    It should plainly pointed out that this type of governing cannot be tolerated by the public no matter which side of the aisle it originates. We must stand together to protect our Constitutional rights — it’s obvious our legislators are not.

  • http://d2brutallyhonest.blogspot.com David 2

    Historical fact: The Federalist Papers, the 85 articles that were published starting in 1787 and served as the primary explination of and advocacy for the US Constitution, would have been illegal if people like Peter Biondi had their way, because it was published annonymously.

    By the way, Jeff… I wish you well in your quest to get that thug voted out of office. By all means, campaign loud and campaign hard to get rid of him. And please don’t let people get away with saying “well, the courts will just throw it out anyway”… because they WON’T!

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  • http://robertdfeinman.com/society Robert Feinman

    Standard operating procedure for pols is to sponsor or co-sponsor a piece of legislation that they know won’t go anywhere. Then they can point to their support of it when hitting up the appropriate audience for funds.

    The Republicans even have this worked down to a science. They call it “catch and release”. When a bill is sure to pass they allow various people to vote against it to demostrate their “independence” from the party to the voters back home.

    I’m sure a close reading of H.L. Mencken will find that he had a few choice names for this sort of thing.

  • http://www.blaserco.com/blogs Britt Blaser

    Response from Biondi’s office to my email:

    Mr. Blaser,

    Thank you for your e-mail. I understand your concerns with my recently
    proposed legislation. Based on the number of negative responses I have
    received about this legislation I have asked the NJ Office of Legislative
    Services to prepare an opinion regarding this bill’s enforceability and
    constitutionality.

    I did not draft this bill with intent to limit freedom of speech. The
    intent behind this legislation was to bring some civility back to public
    forums, in particular the forums on http://www.nj.com. As I receive more feedback
    from, literally, around the country, it is becoming apparent that the bill
    may be too broad in scope and in reality not enforceable.

    As an aside, this bill was only introduced in January. There have been no
    committee hearings regarding this bill and there are none scheduled to my
    knowledge. I am getting inundated with responses which I will review and
    use to better educate myself on the implications of this bill. If, after
    reviewing all of the correspondence and the opinion of OLS, it turns out
    that the bill is, in fact, unworkable, I will certainly reconsider and
    withdraw it. In other words, this is not something that will happen
    overnight.

    It is unfortunate, from my perspective, that while my intention here was
    civility and respectfulness, it turns out that it may have gone too far.

    Thank you again for your e-mail.

    Sincerely,

    Pete Biondi
    Assemblyman

  • a reader

    Biondi said:
    “The
    intent behind this legislation was to bring some civility back to public
    forums, in particular the forums on http://www.nj.com. As I receive more feedback
    from, literally, around the country, it is becoming apparent that the bill
    may be too broad in scope and in reality not enforceable.”

    Why is it that they feel the need to legislate civility? I’m tired of knee-jerk reactions seeking to create new laws all the time anytime anything happens. If they feel the need to DO something, why doesn’t he — on his own dime — start a conversation about “civility”; in the papers, on the forums, in public libraries. Take it on the road, but golly, use common sense and skip the legislation.

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  • 6Gun

    Not that illegal laws haven’t been proposed before. And passed.

    Like water.

    If folks wrote statehouses half as much as they did online, even that would completely reform our lovely runaway government.

  • 6Gun

    Why is it that they feel the need to legislate civility?

    Because they can. Last time I checked, the average, mature, quasi-blue state had approaching a half million laws and statutes on the books. Undoubtedly, I just broke a bunch.

    Who knew?

  • http://d2brutallyhonest.blogspot.com David 2

    Why is it that they feel the need to legislate civility?

    It’s not about “civility”. It’s about power and control. It’s about placating the bruised egos of career politicians and then wrapping it all up under the fraudulent cause of “civility”. People like Biondi want to be able to hunt down these annonymous complainers and harass them into silence instead of using the same forum to answer legtimate questions and complaints.

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  • Greg

    Is it me or does he look like Abe Vigoda?

    http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/members/Biondi.asp

  • http://www.online-dating-rights.com Jim Peterson

    Oh Cmon!

    You guys are missing the OTHER law that was supposed to come into effect this past Monday which the feminists call the “Mail Order Bride” law. This would have forced all Americans who wish to meet foreigners over the Internet to send the foreigners their criminal background histories as well as how many children they have BEFORE they could be allowed to simply say “hello” or determine if the foreigner is even a man or woman, criminal or honest person.

    The International Marriage Broker Regulation Act (IMBRA) states that all men wishing to make contact with foreign women must first send their criminal background histories and other extremely personal data to the foreign woman and have her sign an affidavit that it is OK for him to speak to her… BEFORE HE CAN EVEN SAY HELLO.

    Please scroll down to HR3402-3 Subtitle D:

    http://usaimmigrationattorney.com/images/IMBRA2005to.pdf

    Here are the court documents where in EuropeanConnections.com convinced a federal judge to continue allowing American men their First and Fifth Amendment Rights until March 20th when there will be a hearing:

    http://www.online-dating-rights.com/pdf/ConBrief.pdf

    http://www.online-dating-rights.com/pdf/ConCert.pdf

    Great material here, including the proof that guys who seek foreign wives are in the highest income brackets (and thus beat the foreign wives less than other men beat their American wives).

    The feminists will stop at nothing to take away the rights of American men to use the Internet to date and marry whom they want.

    President Bush cluelessly signed IMBRA as part of the Violence Against Women Act on January 6th…despite the fact that IMBRA could not pass Congress on its own when it was presented last fall. I think Bush made a deal with Maria Cantwell, the sponsor of the bill, that she would vote against filibustering Alito if he signed this law.

    What helped get a unanimous vote in Congress was a mendacious mini-series on feminist Lifetime Television for Womyn called “Human Trafficking”…which implied incorrectly that there is a connection between international dating agencies and trafficking.

    If you read the court documents that just got men a reprieve…it seems that Justice Alito is prone to throw this law out…so if NOW and Lifetime Television for Womyn appeal a lower court ruling against the law to the Supreme Court…the Supreme Court is likely to affirm the ruling.

    More can be found at http://www.imbra.org and http://www.online-dating-rights.com.

    And then you guys are forgetting the socalled “Electronic Annoyance Law” that Bush also cluelessly signed in January. Now you cannot argue with anyone online without the loser saying “email me once more and I will charge you under the new law that you are annoying me”.

    I am glad I live in Europe.

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  • Geoff

    Civility? Ahh well Jeff you need to find a congress-critter with a brain, and a sense of humor to propose a rider amendment to Biondi’s bill:
    5. (a) All persons, residing or being temporarily within the State of New Jersey shall commence all verbal communications, whether in person or by telephonic or other electronic methods, and whether or not the other person or persons to whom the communications shall be or shall be intended to be made is in or out of the State of New Jersey, and the first word of the communication shall be the word “Please”, or the equivalent thereof in any other language which the person may use, and shall end each communication with and the last words shall be “Thank You” and it shall be a misdemeanour offense to fail to do so under the name ‘Misdemeanour Incivility’.
    (b) For the purposes of this section, ‘communication’ shall mean each sentence, paragraph or other division of speech, after which it is, or may be expected that the other persons being communicated to shall respond.
    EXCEPTION
    (c) All members of the House of Assembly when speaking in the House, but not otherwise, shall use the phrase “May it please the Assembly” or “Thank you Mr. Speaker” as the case may be and it shall be an offense to fail to do so as in paragraph (a). It is hereby declared that no Assemblyman shall be entitled to plead or use the doctrine of legislative immunity to oust the jurisdiction of any court in respect of a charge of Misdemeanour Incivility as the doctrine of legislative immunity applies to words that have been said, and not to words that have not been said, as required by this section.
    (d) Each event upon which a person fails to use the word ‘Please’ or the phrase ‘Thank You’, as the case may be or the substitutes thereof, as set out in paragraph (c), shall be treated as a separate occurrence and shall be a separate count in any bill or charge against a person.
    (e) The electronic recordings of the proceedings of the Assembly of the State of New Jersey, duly attested to by the Clerk of the House, shall be admitted into evidence in any prosecution under this section, without further proof as to the admissibility or contents thereof. In order to increase the level of civility exhibited in the House of Assembly, it is hereby declared that the Clerk of the House shall establish and maintain recording facilities in the House sufficient to record all statements or communications made by members of the House, whether recognized by the Speaker or as communications to others, in general.
    (f) The penalty to be imposed by any court, upon conviction of the offense set out in paragraph (a) hereof, shall be $1.00
    (g) The penalty to be imposed by any court upon conviction of the offense set out in parapgraph (c) hereof shall be $1,000.00 and/or one year in prison.
    (h) Notwithstanding the foregoing, no person shall be convicted of an offense hereunder merely because the words “Thank You” are not the ultimate words in the communication but are followed by a name, honorific, identifier, salutation or term of endearment, such as, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, “Peter”, “Sir”, “Doctor”, “Sweetheart” or “Moron”.

    HAH!

  • http://triticale.mu.nu triticale

    Also stupid is the presumption that those of use who choose to appear nicknonymously (anonymity relates to the absence of any identity, not just of the True Name) do so to get away with incivility. My primary purpose is to establish a unique and visible identity. Posting false or defamatory information would run counter to thet purpose.

  • http://bigdirigible.com agricola

    Simply chanting that a guy is dumb is a waste of a perfectly good First Amendment.

    The “civility” stuff, ostensibly an attempt to make the government into Miss Manners, is, obviously, a smoke screen. He wants to damp out criticism under a cloud of unspecified lawsuits and harassment.

    That plan doesn’t make Biondi stupid. It makes him a sneak and a sleaze. Had he been a bit sneakier or craftier he might have come up with a better smoke screen. This time, he was caught. I expect he’ll try again, but next time hide it better. The more of you who think that he’s too dumb to do that, the easier it will be to sneak it right past you.

    I don’t know anything about Biondi. I’m in Massachusetts. They’re pretty dumb up here too. As well as sneaky and sleazy.

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  • ronbo

    At least give Biondi credit for a mature climb-down. The guy may be clueless when it comes to the Internet but I don’t think it’s fair to give him cloven hooves, horns and a tail.

    (I’m not in his district – I’m in Morris not Somerset)

  • Publius of NJ

    It causes me great distress to see a member of “my” party propose such chilling legislation.

    I would like to remind Mr. Biondi that Alexander Hamilton, one of the authors of the “Federalist Papers” signed his essays as ‘Publius.’

    I strongly suggest that Mr. Biondi READ the Federalistr papers and READ the Constitution before he ventures into supporting bills that chill free speech.

    As an AVERAGE CITIZEN, even I know what “prior restraint” is — and I am AMAZED that a N.J. elected official does not.

  • DBC

    Jeff

    I think it was your buddy Hoofin that started this whole ball rolling. On his Blog Mr. Hoofin referred to Mr Biondi as a Mafia-Don-style Assemblyman (see hoofin’s blog dated 11/10/06,) just days after the hoofin supported “Q3” public question (to divide Hillsborough into wards) failed in Hillsborough.

    After hoofin was called on the carpet for his bigoted remarks he dug himself in deeper by proclaiming 80% (which he later correct to 60%) of Hillsborough government is Italian, or at least Italian sounding names, attempting to somehow justify his Mafia-Don-style, statement.

    I believe Assemblyman Biondi’s bill is aimed at situations just like I’m outlining here. Assemblyman Biondi does not what to inhibit free speech, but just wants to make people accountable for their words. Is that a problem?

    I myself am a strong support of free anonymous speech and I feel it most certainly has it’s place in American Politics and should never be banned, which the bill doesn’t. However, with that freedom, comes the reasonability of honest speech. To hide behind an alias, and portray anyone as a mobster (which is my opinion of what hoofin was doing) is simply wrong, unless hoofin can prove the Assemblyman is a mobster, which I’m sure, he can’t.

    Anyway, just so you know your No Biondi vote will for certain be cancelled by my Yes for Biondi vote. Mine and a tons of other Hillsborough residents that frankly are sick and tired of the shenanigans we have witnessed on the Hillsborouigh board at the hands of hoofin and his buddy Glennvl.

    DBC

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  • http://hoofin.blogspot.com Hoofin

    DBC is entirely wrong! That’s why he will very likely be sued!

    Yes, it’s true, probably the Hoofin blogspot was part of Biondi’s genesis. Hoofin pointed out that Biondi seems to favor people with ethnic Italian last names for local government positions.

    But that hardly makes Hoofin a bigot—-that’s DBC’s slander! (and that guy CAN slander!)

    Notice how Biondi has quickly abandoned that little bill of his.

    But meanwhile, DBC has hardly retracted any of his slanderous statements.

    And for a guy who supported the Biondi bill, trust me, it takes a lot of legal and investigative legwork to find out who “DBC” actually is!