Far-reaching initiatives often start in relative obscurity. Such is the potential effect of a bill introduced by in the New York State Senate.
Evidently, we’ve moved a long way from Ben Franklin and his Silence Dogood persona. If you are a writer of any sort online, you might not have the option much longer of remaining anonymous.
Everyone understands that the Internet can be used for good or bad. Likewise, anonymity can be good or bad: See Franklin or Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense.” Writers like Paine knew that going public with a name would invite a swinging rope.
Today, however, online posting presents certain pitfalls, namely, bullying. As with certain medical treatments, though, the treatment can often be worse than the disease. The New York Senate bill could end posting online!
Sen. Thomas F. O’Mara, from Big Flats, N.Y., has introduced S6779, requiring an anonymous post to be removed if the poster won’t subsequently provide legal name, IP address and a home address!
From the actual bill: “A web site administrator upon request shall remove any comments posted on his or her web site by an anonymous poster unless such 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. All web site administrators shall have a contact number or e-mail address posted for such removal requests, clearly visible in any sections where comments are posted.”
It’s pretty obvious that someone up there in New York doesn’t fully understand the Internet, or the full implications. Posting a home address, of course, could be extremely dangerous.
Now, to be sure, some online comments sections are becoming warzones. The safe confines of one’s computer in one’s own home is producing a generation of pseudo-William Wallaces, who let the keys fly in posting vicious, cruel responses. Chats and other comment sections often descend into bitter name-calling that destroy the original intent of the conversation.
No doubt some politicians have pure motives in trying to combat this problem, but this bill (and rumors of such at the federal level) is deeply troubling.
A far more sinister potential involves the possibility that Barack Obama – in a second term – would move to silence his critics, primarily online.
Early in Obama’s rise to the presidency, a Mother Jones article raised the ugly issue: “Should President Obama have the power to shut down domestic Internet traffic during a state of emergency?
“Senators John Rockefeller, D-W.V., and Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, think so,” the article reported. “They introduced a bill to establish the Office of the National Cybersecurity Advisor – an arm of the executive branch that would have vast power to monitor and control Internet traffic to protect against threats to critical cyber infrastructure. That broad power is rattling some civil libertarians.”
Now, hold on there, pardner. Since I still live in a free society and have the privilege of writing for a champion of free press, let me be the first to say … I totally believe Obama would love to silence his critics online, and that he’ll do it if given a chance. A second term would be a free ride for him to enact sweeping changes to fundamentally alter America.
There: I said it, and I mean it. That’s why the New York bill is not in our best interests as American citizens. The Founders would never have silenced free speech, especially under the cloak of “protecting us.” The citizenry sees through that.
A Fox News report from the same time as Mother Jones weighed in: “A Senate source familiar with the bill likened the new power to take control of portions of the Internet to what President Bush did when he grounded all aircraft on Sept. 11, 2001.”
What this means, of course, is that it isn’t only Democrats in the White House who sometimes like to step all over our liberties. This is why we must all be vigilant at all times in order to try and prevent this type of takeover.
And who’s to say that Mitt Romney wouldn’t invoke such powers, should a catastrophic event take place? Obama, I believe, is a thoroughgoing Marxist, but that doesn’t mean he’s the only president who thought it might be in his best interests to stomp all over civil liberties.
This we cannot afford.