NCFM Note: legislation of this type would put a huge damper on civil rights activism. Those opposed to equal rights for men could use such laws to all but shut down the free interchange of interests and ideas across the Internet and eventually other media. Similar legislation has already been proposed at the national level. If you live in New York we strongly recommend that you contact as many of your legislators as possible and demand that they strenuously oppose this bill.
Harry Crouch, President NCFM
Kill the New York Bill, Which Seeks to Outlaw Free Speech on the Internet, targets political speech… on pretext of ‘protecting children
By Eric Ross, Ph.D
Several members of the NY State Assembly and Senate have launched a dangerous assault on the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
They are pushing the so-called Internet Protection Act (http://www.legislativegazette.com/Articles-Top-Stories-c-2012-05-14-81688.113122-Bill-would-eliminate-derogatory-anonymous-web-posts.html)
Their names are State Senator O’Mara (R-District 53), Assemblymen Dean Murray (R,C-East Patchogue), Jim Conte (R-10th district), Phil Palmesano (R-C, Corning). The bills are A.8688 / S.6779 (in the Assembly and Senate, and their texts are identical. The bill will make it a crime to post “mean-spirited and baseless political attacks.” The question is, who will decide what “mean-spirited” and “baseless” mean?
If passed, the legislation will have a massive chilling effect on political speech. As they often do, legislators are seeking to bamboozle the people of New York under the guise of … protecting children. While pretending to be against “cyber bullying,” they are clearly targeting the political speech, hoping that voters do not read beyond the first lines of text. The legislation makes it illegal to post anonymously on the Internet.
Said Assemblyman Jim Conte, 10th District:
Finally, the legislation will help cut down on the types of mean-spirited and baseless political attacks that add nothing to the real debate and merely seek to falsely tarnish the opponent’s reputation by using the anonymity of the Web. By removing these posts, this bill will help to ensure that there is more accurate information available to voters on their prospective candidates, giving them a better assessment of the candidates they have to choose from.
State Republican Senator Tom O’Mara introduced the legislation on May 3, 2012.
“The Internet Protection Act” concerns messages posted on message boards, blogs, social networks, and “any other discussion site where people can hold conversations in the form of posted messages.” It requires websites to post email addresses for “removal requests, clearly visible in any sections where comments are posted.” Those who demand the removal of messages, which they for some reason dislike, would have their anonymity protected. – How convenient! Name a single politician who likes criticism!
There is sufficient legal precedent for unmasking the identity of libelous anonymous commentators by obtaining a court order, which would result in pinpointing who they are. So, aside from being a great pretence, this bill is clearly unconstitutional (see, e.g. Talley v. California) and it must be nipped in the bud.
It is worth remembering that the Federalist Papers were published anonymously. Said David Kravets, of Wired Magazine:
“Had the internet been around in the late 1700s, … the anonymously written Federalist Papers would have to be taken down unless Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay revealed themselves.” http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2012/05/anonymous-online-speech-ban/
Assemblyman Jim Conte, took off the mask of “protecting children,” when he stated on his website (maintained on the taxpayer’s dime):
“With more and more people relying on social media and the Internet to communicate and gather information, it is imperative that the legislature put into place some type of safeguard to prevent people from using the Internet’s cloak of anonymity to bully our children and make false accusations against local businesses and elected officials.”
Thank you, Assemblyman. So much for your pretence of “protecting children” to mask the reactionary politics.
The bill in New York has serious ramifications for the rest of the web, as many web servers are located in New York, and the assault on free speech in New York may become a boilerplate for other states’ and the federal law.
Making a lame attempt to hide behind “children”, the legislation specifically targets political speech, especially free speech directed at “elected officials,” many of them being contemptuous of criticism and clawing towards unlimited power.
The founding fathers made it the cornerstone of the US Constitution that “Congress shall make no law abridging the Freedom of Speech, or of the Press…”
The attacks on the constitution come in many forms, from the extreme left and extreme right of the political spectrum. This time, this dangerous fascist legislation comes from the right.
Call, fax or contact personally the New York State Assemblymen and Senators, and tell them to oppose this fascist legislation.
You can find a list all of the NYS Assembly members, and their contact information here:
To find your New York State representatives by your Zip code, go here:
Text of the bill is here:
Assemblyman Jim Conte quoted:
It is instructional to see how the dirty political deal-making is accomplished in New York State, and how the fascist interests on the left converge with those on the right: As a justification for trampling upon the people’s First amendment right, the Republican Assemblymen sponsoring the Internet Protection Act relied on the recently issued “Cyberbullying: A Report on Bullying in a Digital Age” [Fn-1], published by the Independent Democratic Conference, a group of four New York state senators — Jeff Klein, Diane Savino, David Carlucci and David Valesky.
There is a “theoretical explanation” of a “more refined First Amendment” embedded in the report, which despite being abstract, shows a very concrete, strong disdain for the First Amendment:
“Proponents of a more refined First Amendment argue that this freedom should be treated not as a right but as a privilege — a special entitlement granted by the state on a conditional basis that can be revoked if it is ever abused or maltreated. [emphasis added]
In Nazi Germany publishing was “a special entitlement granted by the State” (State Ministry of Propaganda, headed by Joseph Goebbels.) Now they want a similar regiment in New York.
Here is a simple example: The numerous user comments, of which the overwhelming majority were against reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), as on the discussion boards of the New York Times, Huffington Post, U.S. News and World Report, US News, and other publications would have been all removed, and politicians would have gone blithely about their business of screwing the American People any which way they choose.
CALL TO ACTION
Then fill out (customize) the template letter below and send it to NY legislators.
SUBJECT: Protect Free Speech, speak out against “Internet Protection Act” (A.8688/S.6779)
Dear NY State Assemblyman [Senator] XXX-YYYYY,
I want to let you know that after a careful consideration, I feel strongly that this bill puts our freedom and democracy in jeopardy.
As you may know, there is a bill in the NY Assembly and/or Senate that would restrict free speech on the Internet: Bill A.8688/S.6779. While ostensibly based on good intentions to stop or limit “cyber-bullying” of “children,” it will effectively stifle political free speech, place unrealistic, costly burdens on website operators, while allowing cyber-bullies to simply use a fake name.
Prominent Constitutional legal scholars, such as Eugene Volokh, known specifically for his First Amendment work, already opined that this bill is unconstitutional on its face. Nobody wins if this bill is dragged through the floor of the New York State Assembly. There would be additional wasted tax-dollars as this unconstitutional bill is fought in courts, ultimately to be defeated.
American Democracy is based on Free Speech, a liberty that makes us stand apart from tyrannical regimes. This bill is anti-American, it undermines the essence of our Democracy. In addition, it will accomplish no public good, but will waste tax-dollars and business dollars in the economy, which is in the worst shape since the Great Depression.
I urge you to fight for Liberty, Democracy and common sense and to speak out against the “Internet Protection Act”, bill A.8688/S.6779.
Thank you for your time and service to the State of New York and our nation.
END OF LETTER
FREE SPEECH !
The opinions expressed here or on any other NCFM website, blog, or other media are not necessarily those of NCFM.