A Democratic State Senator from Illinois sponsored legislation that is turning heads, not just in the Land of Lincoln, but across the country and around the world. Tech publications have seized the opportunity to strike a blow for freedom of speech by suggesting they don’t know what’s worse – the Bill’s blatant censorship or the possibility that it could become law.
Internet Posting Removal Act
The Bill introduced into the Illinois State Senate is titled, ‘Internet Posting Removal Act’. From its title, it would seem it’s merely another law forcing web sites to remove unwanted, threatening, slanderous or violent posts from their site. With the epidemic of bullying among kids and violence against gays, Muslims and every other group that’s different than the norm, such laws are being enacted more frequently. But that’s not what this law is, not by a longshot.
As described by the technology publication Web Pro News, ‘State lawmakers all across the country busy at work crafting ridiculous, head-spinning laws can take the day off. There is no way they can top this.’ The tech news outlet says the new Bill, if passed into law, ‘looks to completely wipe out any form of anonymity on the internet by requiring that the operators of basically any website on the entire internet take down any comment that isn’t attached to an IP, address, and real name-verified poster.’ To clarify - that’s not ‘IP Address’. Its IP address and residential home address, literally.
Sponsored by Senate Democrat Ira Silverstein (D-Chicago), the Bill insincerely adds an exemption for web surfers that wish to remain anonymous. As the Bill states, ‘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.’
See, all you have to do is post your full name and home address on everything you do online and you can remain anonymous.
Ramifications of the law
If passed, many 1st Amendment and Freedom of Speech advocates see a repeat of the recent incident in New York where a newspaper published the names and home addresses of all the gun owners in the area. Outraged residents, both gun owners and non-gun owners alike, are still angered and insist the stunt by the local paper has caused numerous home invasions. Gun owners fear they are being robbed for their guns. While non-gun owners fear they are being targeted by violent criminals because they now know the residents have no way to defend themselves.
If Illinois State Senator Ira Silverstein’s Bill becomes law, it would ban all anonymous online political dissention. It would also open up everyone with an opinion to violent personal attacks at their homes. One would literally have to register with the state before being allowed to post a comment anywhere on the internet, including sites like Facebook and Twitter. And then, one’s personal information would be visible to everyone.
Those like Ira Silverstein who support the Internet Posting Removal Act would also probably support abolishing America’s system of using secret ballots to elect our representatives. In the end, it would have the same result – reprisals, retribution and personal attacks for political reasons.
Those who oppose this Bill, assumedly the US Supreme Court included, see it as an attempt to limit freedom of speech guaranteed by the US Constitution. In a 1995 decision, the high court wrote, ‘Protections for anonymous speech are vital to democratic discourse. Allowing dissenters to shield their identities frees them to express critical minority views…Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority.’
So far, the Bill before the Illinois Senate has no co-sponsors and has been referred to Committee for assignment. With the worst credit rating in the nation, a slew of Governors and Congressmen in prison, and the worst-in-the-nation unpaid pension fund, Illinois legislators aren’t expected to do much with Sen. Silverstein’s Bill. The Illinois General Assembly has its hands full avoiding jail and bankruptcy.
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