Media sources report that the Illinois state Senate has introduced The Internet Posting Removal Act. If you are a webmaster or an Internet user who likes to post comments online this could affect you.
The bill reads, "[A] website administrator upon request shall remove any comments posted on his or her website 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 bill, which does not ask for or clarify requirements from entities requesting the comment removal, would take effect 90 days after becoming law, reports PrisonPlanet.
There have been many attempts at restricting Internet freedoms, especially during the last year, but this one tops them all. The anti-anonymity bill is the work of Illinois State Senator Ira Silverstein, a Democrat.
So how does this bill make you feel? Here is my opinion.
Governments can always cite incidents in justifying any restriction of freedoms online, or in the real world. In the 21st Century nine times out of ten homeland security will be the issue given. The reason the rest of the time is preventing child pornography and criminal activity.
We all know neither is a true representation.
The criminal fraternity and sleaze merchants will always find a way. Curb their freedoms online and they will find other methods. Their activity will not stop. It takes the strong arm of the law, along with education and more, to put a stop to their activities.
What the restrictions supported by Silverstein will do is deter freedom of speech. If you want to comment online, no more pen names; instead your identity and that includes your Internet service provider, address and name. Rather excessive, don't you think?
You may read this report and want to write that you think the proposed change is a good thing and this article is a four-letter word. But if you do, make sure that you supply all relevant information.
This bill will prove useful to governments in monitoring their citizens' opinions, assessing disruptive areas of the country, identifying troublemakers and so much more. It does not take a genius to work out how this information could be used from a basic level of marketing to service needs and controlling populations.
If you run a small website you could be kept busy. Each comment will need checking for authenticity and then maybe deleting. If not, webmasters could face the full force of the law, whatever that is in this case.
How this would work with a British webmaster operating a website hosted by a company in the US, heaven only knows.
What is truly galling is the hypocrisy.
Western governments applauded the Arab Spring, and may have played a role, but they do not want uprisings at home. The West is quick to condemn countries such as China or Russia when they curb Internet freedoms, yet they want to do the same. Western governments shy away from outright censorship, instead choosing to whittle away any freedoms we may have.
People use pen names for many reasons, and not all are bad ones. You could be classed as a whistleblower if you share your employment experiences in the NHS or an American hospital, for instance.
Yes, there are trolls online who are sociopaths or even stalkers, but they are a minority.
One thing for sure is that the anti-anonymity bill will deter meaningful commentary. It also will allow the government more control of the masses.
Big Brother is not just watching you—he is in your home.