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Anonymous Commenters Beware!

New York Lawmakers have drafted bills in the Senate and Assembly which would crack down on anonymous commenters on blogs and websites... Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Dave Lucas reports.

Under the proposed legislation, New York-based websites would be required to hold off publishing comments posted by readers who declined to identify themselves... no more "anonymous" reactions to blog posts or newspaper articles. Instead, those wishing to weigh in would have to attach a "legal name" to any comment, along with their HOME address as well as their computer's IP address.

The legislation is sponsored by two Republicans: Chemung County Senator Tom O'MAra of Big Flats and Long Island Assemblyman Dean Murray.

Lissa Harris is the founding editor of The Watershed Post, an online news site that serves the Catskills region. Harris believes the bill runs counter to the spirit of the First Amendment and likely would notstand up in court if challenged.  Harris notes that the Watershed Post employs "Facebook comments" - Many politicians employ facebook, twitter and other offerings on the internet in both campaigning and disseminiating information to constituents.

Bill sponsor Assemblyman Dean Murray says he needs to clear the air surrounding the legislation...  he says nothing is more important than freedom of speech.

It's worthwhile to note that while the First Amendment doesn't specifically address "anonymous" speech, the Electronic Frontier Foundations points out that the US Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that the RIGHT to ANONYMOUS free speech IS protected by it.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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