Peter J. Biondi, NJ Assemblyman for District 16, has introduced A1327, a bill to force every ISP and website with comments/forums to demand user identification from every single poster (called an “information content provider” in the bill). While ostensibly an effort to stop defamation on the net, the identification requirements apply to all posters, not just those who defame others
There is no doubt that defamation is illegal, but this kind of a solution to the problem is a nightmare. There are many legitimate reasons to post anonymously online. For example, gay teens in homophobic areas often go online to ask questions anonymously about their sexual identity; sexual assault victims often seek support and recovery resources anonymously online; and patients interested in controversial procedures like abortion often need anonymity to seek medical information safely.
Beyond the obvious impact of this bill, which would clearly cause significant issues with anonymous/semi-anonymous sites like Flock Sucks and Jack of All Blogs – it would create huge privacy concerns with those attempting to converse in private on forums and similar sites about issues like addiction, sexual misfunction, rape/sexual assault, or psychological issues.
Perhaps just as onerous of a threat is the fact that many individuals will simply stop blogging. Why? Because faced with the fact that their identification would be discoverable or perhaps even made public under this law, many will refuse to write anymore online because their employer will be able to see their writings. This, of course, could lead to the inevitable Doocing.
For our blog readers in New Jersey, we would ask you to write your legislators and oppose this ignorant and stupid bill.