End of Anonymous Online Comments?

March 20, 2013 by in tips

End of Anonymous Online Comments?

Last month an Illinois state senator – introduced a bill that would outlaw anonymous internet posts/comments – in the land of Lincoln. The bill died a quick death when it was withdrawn due to a flood of negative feedback. This was not the first attempt to regulate anonymous online commentary, in 2012 similar legislation was introduced in New York in an effort to fight “the Internet’s cloak of anonymity to bully our children and make false accusations against local businesses and elected officials.”

The Bill

Illinois Senate Bill 1614:

Introduced 2/13/2013, by Sen. Ira I. Silverstein

SYNOPSIS AS INTRODUCED: New Act Creates the Internet Posting Removal Act. Provides that a web site administrator shall, upon request, remove any posted comments posted 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.

From the bill:

“Anonymous poster” means any individual who posts a message on a web site including social networks, blogs, forums, message boards, or any other discussion site where people can hold conversations in the form of posted messages..
blogs.chicagotribune.com | Feb 21, 2013 | Eric Zorn

Ultimate Irony

…Jeff Jarvis notes the ultimate irony that the very same Ira I. Silverstein, just days after introducing that bill to effectively ban internet anonymity, proposed another bill to keep gun owner info anonymous, amending the freedom of information act to exempt firearms ownership data from being available to the public.

Whatever you might believe about anonymous comments and/or gun ownership, it’s difficult to put both of these laws together and not see some sort of extreme hypocrisy.
techdirt.com | Feb 19, 2013 | Mike Masnick

Not the First Attempt

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.
dailycaller.com | Feb 21, 2013

Effort to Combat Cyber-Bullying

So the proposed New York legislation is a head-scratcher. Wired notes that it stems from an attempt to combat cyber-bullying, referencing an opinion piece by New York Republican Assemblyman Jim Conte, who argues the bill would “[turn] the spotlight on cyber-bullies by forcing them to reveal their identity or have their post removed.” And Betabeat reports that the bill started with New York Assemblyman Dean Murray, who was himself anonymously accused of domestic violence toward his ex-wife and son in 2010. “The thing that disturbed me the most about it was, once everything was proven false, there was no way to get the comments down,” said Murray. “The important thing here is to give the victims a voice and an opportunity to protect themselves.”.
techland.time.com | May 24, 2012 | Matt Peckham

What do you think? Do anonymous online comments bother you? Should online posters be required to reveal their real names?

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23 Responses to End of Anonymous Online Comments?

  1. Scott W. Allen says:

    Weren't Anonymous writing used extensively by during the days before (and during) the American revolution?


  2. Bobber128 says:

    Politicians who have issues with the online activities of others, leave me with the impression, That their relentless attempts to regulate the internet is just a prelude to taxation. Our responsibility in the case is easy, if one doesn’t like posted commentary, do not get involved. Just that simple. My responsibility in this matter is not to turn the computer on!!!!!

    This eliminates a whole slew of issues like, “Identity theft” Cyber Bullying” the list goes on and on.

    Personable responsibility is the key.


  3. Michael Armstrong says:

    The laws about libel and slander, shouldn’t they apply to the internet as well? Cowards can post anything that they want, (true or not)and get away with it. If they knew that there was a chance that they could be held accountable for these actions, they might think twice. I am a huge supporter of Freedom of Speech, but lies are not part of that right. They’re people on these sites that are purposely trying to ruin other people’s lives and getting away with it. If you think that it’s not a big deal, then you have never been a victim of it.

    I stole this paragraph from JWT, because I totally agree with the statement.


  4. blue says:

    They, the elected are the ones that shouldn’t be anonymous. We should all be anonymous, as we don’t have tax payer funded body guards.


  5. Frank Riley says:

    It doesn't matter if it is their real name or not as long as it puts a name to a comment, otherwise there is no way to distinguish one anonymous comment from another. I also agree with Alan Price. One should be held accountable for their comments and not be able to hide behind the cloak of anonymous when posting derogative comments about an individual that they would not post if their identity was attached to that post.


    • Ron Quesada says:

      There no way to distinguish it now…!? I think the point was, stopping people from slandering others, a company, or website. The problem is the abilit to create "anonymous" accounts and use them to do this stuff, so yes, it does matter if it's the "real' person or not or they won't give a crap what they say or who they say it to.


  6. The laws about libel and slander, shouldn't they apply to the internet as well? Cowards can post anything that they want, (true or not)and get away with it. If they knew that there was a chance that they could be held accountable for these actions, they might think twice. I am a huge supporter of Freedom of Speech, but lies are not part of that right. They're people on these sites that are purposely trying to ruin other people’s lives and getting away with it. If you think that it's not a big deal, then you have never been a victim of it.


    • Historically, laws that are hard to enforce rarely do any good. If someone had something they wanted to say without anyone knowing who they really are then they will find a way. Much in the same way that if a convicted felon wants a gun, they can get one.


  7. Ron Quesada says:

    So what if your "real" name is there or not, doesn't mean it's actually your "real" name, so is it really that transparent? It won't solve the problem actually. Which I don't really see what the problem is, I just ignore those stupid comments anyhow.


    • Bobber128 says:

      @Ron Quesada:
      Agreed, we already have issues with privacy, just ask the 1st lady. So now we feel that we should reveal everyone who posts a comment and put them at risk. You hit it on the head Ron, Practicing personable responsibility is truly an Olympic event.


  8. Darlene Littlejohn says:

    The government should not get involved in this! However, websites should be able to make their own rules and regulations, and they do. Besides, it’s rather easy to make a false name and email if you really want to do that.

    Personally, I always use my real name. If people post without using their full names (including some of the posters here), I seldom bother to even read what they have to say.


  9. James Herman says:

    Posting using your real name gives your comments credibility. However posting anonymously might lead to greater accuracy. Most sites already have civility rules so things don't get too far out of line. This keeps the hate groups out.


  10. Frank Klett says:

    I tend to give much more credibility to a post that is signed by a real person since they have the balls to stand behind their opinions or thoughts. And for that I find them much more acceptable to conversation.
    Frank J. Klett


  11. Shaftmonde says:

    Being insulted online is easy to deal with. Just as you should deal with all trolls – ignore them; don’t respond and they will go away eventually.
    People who complain about abuse are like some footballers who, when they are given a little tap, roll around clutching some part of their anatomy and screaming.
    Learn to deal with the fact that some people have different opinions to your own, or are just plain nasty. Yes, such people exist.


  12. I totally agree with Allan Price.


  13. Anonymous says:

    I agree this practice should be illegal. It goes without saying (pun intended) this entire “free marketplace of ideas” is an obvious failure.


  14. G.A. Goley says:

    We do need some stinking laws, or rules. Anonymity can enable some to say online what they would be afraid to say under their real names, but therein lies the problem. While some are more inclined to participate in legitimate discussions, others use secrecy to bully, lie and distort. In any case, I love this post: Anonymous says: Where’s the fun in making an anonymous posting poking a stick and a comment — be it legit or truly dumb?

    I suppose you’ll be the one to answer that one, Anonymous!


  15. Allan Price says:

    Only cowards hide behind anonymous comments.


  16. Kyle says:

    This is absurd. It’s already easy (for some) to figure out who is writing what. If I want to call you an idiot under the cloak of anonymity, then I should be able to. What is this proposal intended for. Politeness? …On the internet?
    What about younger people? Are they also to be subjected to giving out their personal info just to post a comment somewhere? (BTW I think that Google’s attempt to “force” everyone to use their real names is just wrong for that alone. It’s unnecessary and dangerous.)
    This is just an uninformed disaster by people that know nothing of the internet. Or understand what privacy is for that matter.
    Sure I won’t be able to cyberbully anyone. Now I can just go to their home and kill them?!?!? What a great law.

    “Bill Title: Creates the Internet Posting Removal Act. Provides that a web site administrator shall, upon request, remove any posted comments posted 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.”
    This is laughable. Random people want my HOME address? lol. I wouldn’t give that to my buddy at work I just met, much less a total stranger that bought a domain name. It’s as if they want to make it even easier for hackers to steal information. ANYONE can make a website. Now If ANYONE request that I make my personal info public, they can force the deletion of a post???
    Hmm, let me think. How could a single induhvidual topple a site like google? Make a bot that “requests” that each poster make their ID known and somehow provide proof, which isn’t clarified as to how that would be done? Absurd.
    How would you even get average people to confirm that their IP address is accurate? Most internet users don’t even know what that is, and most peoples change because they have dynamic IPs.

    They never forced anyone that mailed letters to provided a real name or return address. What changed? Do reporters also have to give out their sources too now?

    I got a better dumb law. Make everyone that drives a car inform all the people on the streets they’ll be driving on how much gas mileage they get.
    Wait, better. No longer are you allowed to drive a car on roads in the State of Illinois as they may damage them. You must now crawl to your intended destination. And if anyone request where you are going, you MUST inform them or turn around and go back.

    Is the state of Illinois trying to out do Alabama in sheer stupidity?

    [In response to Info Dave]
    Websites like facebook and youtube are the ones making “votes” or likes/dislikes. Also there are too many websites. No one wants to use their throw away email to sign up to a website, just to post a comment. And websites know that.

    Back in the earlier 80s it was known that you use an alias or handle as it was then called. And if Info Dave isn’t real birth name, :), then you’re being a hypocrite as you are in effect “a guest” commenter.


  17. Anonymous says:

    Where’s the fun in making an anonymous posting poking a stick and a comment — be it legit or truly dumb?


  18. Info Dave says:

    We don’t need no stinking laws!

    However websites should do their best to eliminate “guest” comments (and votes.) Info Dave is obviously not my real name, but I consistently use it. With services like Disqus, I have built up a body of work. People can refer to it when they wonder where I’m coming from.

    Having said that, even services like Disqus are being abused. Just recently, there has been a rash of outlandish comments, that when you look, the account was set up just to make that one horrendous statement. I don’t know how you stop that. Personally, I call them out. I see others doing the same thing.


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