There went the anonymity privilege…

Noted on CNET here, it is now illegal to post comments on blogs anonymously, if they are intended to “annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass.” Here is the actual language in the bill:

Whoever…utilizes any device or software that can be used to originate telecommunications or other types of communications that are transmitted, in whole or in part, by the Internet… without disclosing his identity and with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass any person…who receives the communications…shall be fined under title 18 or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.

If this information annoys you, please note that my name can be found under the post title!


There went the anonymity privilege… — 5 Comments

  1. That sounds pretty crazy. I’m as much annoyed by trolls as the next person, but – throwing people in jail for being annoying? Besides being generally excessive, isn’t this a pretty clear violation of freedom of speech?

    Noting the “can be used” phrase in the beginning of the quotation, it seems that your annoying message doesn’t even have to actually be transmitted via the internet.

    I wonder what counts as disclosing one’s identity (e.g., putting only one’s first name, only one’s last name, both first and last but where the name is very common like “John Smith”, using a nickname, using a definite description…?).

  2. Mike, there’s a bit of good news here, from Steve Fogdall: this statute amends a previous law so that, both with and without this amendment, the law specifically excludes any “interactive computer service.” Presumably, a blog would count as that. The original law was aimed at “obscene and harassing telephone calls.” So, in all likelihood, CNET is overreaching here.

  3. “Bush signed into law a prohibition on posting annoying Web messages or sending annoying e-mail messages without disclosing your true identity.

    In other words, it’s OK to flame someone on a mailing list or in a blog as long as you do it under your real name.”

    Are those other words? I don’t think so.

  4. “who receives the communication” – does ‘who’ pick out anyone reading a comment or only the blog owner/manager receiving the comment and posting it?

  5. Rage, that’s all that can describe my reaction. But then, I live in Australia, so it’s okay right? You suckers should really consider moving to a more liberal country, like Saudi Arabia.

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