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.