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Links of the Day:

– Two New York State lawmakers want to police anonymous online comments. State Senator Tom O’Mara of the Southern Tier and Assemblyman Dean Murray of Long Island have proposed the Internet Protection Act. They say it would combat cyberbullying and not infringe upon free speech. If someone complains about a comment, websites would have to remove the offending post.

Not surprisingly, the proposal is getting a ton of heat. The New York Post writes:

These guys ever hear of free speech?

True, anonymous commenters can be obnoxious trolls. And sponsors say they hope to protect kids from cyberbullies and shield businesses from negative posts by their rivals — not that even those goals should be allowed to trump the First Amendment.
But as Assemblyman Jim Conte (R-LI) made clear, the bill will also ban “mean-spirited and baseless political attacks that . . . falsely tarnish the opponent’s reputation by using the anonymity of the Web.”

Forget the First Amendment — these guys are looking out for No. 1.

In the assembly, a bunch of GOP lawmakers have signed on. But the measure doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere. Who knows what may have happened if media outlets hadn’t discovered the bill’s existence.

– Canada stands to profit a lot more than New York State and Niagara Falls from Nik Wallenda’s wire walk. Oh darn.

– Rochester TV stations WROC and WUHF have shared a building, along with news and sales staff for years. The stations have different owners, however. These “covert consolidations” are becoming more common and the FCC is investigating.

– You can buy a 176-year-old building in Clarendon for $1. It needs a lot of work.

– The first few hot days of summer feel yucky, don’t they? Our bodies gradually get used to the heat.

Why is Photoshop evil, but Instagram gets a pass?

12 Responses to State Lawmakers Want to Police Online Comments

  1. I think there’s something in the water in Albany. You can cure ignorance with education but you can’t fix stupid.

  2. This is the part that really bothers me:

    “Who knows what may have happened if media outlets hadn’t discovered the bill’s existence.”

    Why is it we have to “discover” anything our elected officials are putting up for discussion and vote?

    • May 29, 2012 at 11:02 am Rachel responds:

      That’s an important function of the media, to monitor government. The bills are public and they are online. But how many people go searching through them?

  3. I know it really shouldn’t in this day and age, but for some reason it never stops baffling me: Where did this idea that the government’s role is to shelter us from things that someone may or may not find “offensive” come from, and how has it gained so much traction?

  4. May 29, 2012 at 11:05 am Reggie Henderson responds:

    Rachel’s two posts (this and the post about Schumer’s problem with metal bristle grill brushes) sum up the Republican and Democrat philosophy’s. Democrats try to reign in powerful companies making money off people with products that might not be safe. Republicans like O’Mara and Murray go after the individual and try to reign in their freedom. I’m with the Democrats. I’m for government protection of individuals and their freedom, rather than the Republicans efforts to protect the “freedom of corporations”.

  5. Reggie, that seems a bit overgeneralized. The real problems seem to lay less among partisan philosophies, but more with the power our lawmakers hold, and the fact that their incentives around making decisions don’t line up as well as they could with the goals and rights of the people they are elected to serve.

  6. You’re right, Rachel, it is. I guess my complaint is directly a function of us simply proposing too many laws. And it also boosts the importance of watchdog groups: those with truly altruistic agendas.

  7. May 29, 2012 at 1:38 pm Anonyomous responds:

    This is so dumb. You lawmakers are stupid. Bully Bully bully blah blah blah.


  8. You can address cyber bullying without resorting to censorship and these folks know it. You are absolutely right, Rachel, this is all about looking out for number one, and not just in campaigns. This will chill free speech and keep us from voicing our concerns online for fear of being accused of “unnecessarily maligning” a politician.

  9. May 30, 2012 at 8:14 am Jeff Beach responds:

    This doesn’t bother me. Aren’t the people who go online and attack others under the guise of “anonymous” already censoring themselves?? I am in no way a supporter of undue government intervention, but PERSONAL ACCOUNTABILITY does need to be addressed in open forums. As far as I am concerned, the protection of “free speech” does not fall under any “anonymous” moniker … those are for cowards and people who are more into terrorizing than contributing to any productive discourse.

    • I get your point Jeff, but as a webmaster I would tell you there’s no way we could comply with the law. For example, I don’t know that Jeff Beach is real name, so if I don’t like your comment, I’d just call Rachel at the number she would be asked to provide, and ask her to verify your identity?

      That’s preposterous, and it shakes the firmament on which the web was built.

      I recognize that bullying occurs online (and off) and anonymity can help contribute to it. However, the legislation would end up causing most of us to simply would close our blogs to comment, which doesn’t do anyone any good.

  10. Sorry, got interrupted during my last post, so it’s a grammatical mess 🙂

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