Kentucky Doesn’t Like Web Anonymity

Tim Couch, a representative in the Kentucky legislature, has filed a fundamentally idiotic bill:

The bill would require anyone who contributes to a website to register their real name, address and e-mail address with that site.

Their full name would be used anytime a comment is posted.

If the bill becomes law, the website operator would have to pay if someone was allowed to post anonymously on their site. The fine would be five-hundred dollars for a first offense and one-thousand dollars for each offense after that.

Representative Couch says he filed the bill in hopes of cutting down on online bullying. He says that has especially been a problem in his Eastern Kentucky district.

There are a couple issues here (apart from the whole First Amendment of the Constitution thing):

First and foremost, anonymity helps to ensure personal security. If your 9-year-old daughter is posting on a social website, do you want her real name, and home address to show up every time she posts something, for any pedophile to see?

Second, I don’t understand the regional component here. What is it about Eastern Kentucky that makes online harassment worse? Also, does this bill only try to affect websites created by people within Kentucky, does it only affect websites hosted in the state, or does it try to affect all websites accessible from any computer within that state? That’s not really fleshed out in the article, and each potentiality has its own enforcement problems. Finding out who the webmaster really is, for a start…addressing interstate regulation about web hosting…or dealing with international regulations, if we’re talking about the whole web.

I think this is just another lawmaker who doesn’t have a clue about how the internet works. There’s simply no way of enforcing this sort of thing on a state by state basis. You could certainly enforce it for every Kentucky State Government operated site, and they have every right to do so, but you don’t need laws for it, and I suspect the “online bullying” he’s talking about isn’t taking place on the state government website.

This popped up on digg recently, and in the comments, someone posted this representative’s phone number, e-mail, and home address. After a few days, I suspect this guy will have seen what it really means to have your personal contact information posted on popular websites. I’m going to assuming the Kentucky government is generally more intelligent than this guy, so this bill probably didn’t have a change of getting passed. However, after all the negative feedback I’m sure he’s received by now, I suspect he regrets submitting this bill in the first place.


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