Online commenters aren't exactly known for their kind words, but lawmakers in New York want to hold their constituents to a higher standard. A few Empire State lawmakers want to address that problem by doing away with anonymous commenting.I have mentioned before (in the post, The Cloak of Anonymity) that I think that the often anonymous aspects of the internet allow a number of people to adopt a carefree attitude. It is far easier to be vulgar, vitriolic or polemical when nobody knows who you are. You don't have to worry about any personal repercussions or recriminations. You can become like an invisible wild west gunslinger -- you can spray bullets wherever you like and no one can shoot back specifically at you.
Identical bills in the senate and assembly require anonymous posts to be deleted by administrators of New York-based websites, including "social networks, blog forums, message boards, or any other discussion site where people can hold conversations in the form of posted messages."
~ from New York Lawmakers Propose Bill to Ban Anonymous Online Speech via The Guardian ~
While the cloak of anonymity can be bothersome and irritating, this in no way means that I would support the legislation mentioned above. In a free society, people should be able to say or write what they want and I see no compelling reason WHY they must identify themselves.
But there is another reason I would oppose such legislation; the mass media utilizes anonymous sourcing all the time! Often times, these unnamed sources are members of our government or Corporate America. It's a mechanism the big wigs use to get a specific viewpoint across without the danger of individual culpability.
If this legislation passes and is signed into law, it establishes one set of rules for predominantly average folks like you and me, while in no way addressing the use of anonymity by the powerbrokers of society. Why should we be required to identify ourselves when they don't have to?
For the most part, the anonymity utilized by people like us has a limited public impact. The same cannot be said for the powers that be. Their anonymous comments and revelations are broadcast far and wide. The anonymous information, opinion or analysis they provide can impact public policy and shape public sentiments.