The bill, among other things, would require an â€œoperator of an interactive computer service [a blogger] â€ to â€œestablish, maintain and enforce a policy to require any information content provider [a commenter] who posts written messages [comments] on a public forum website [a blog] either to be identified by a legal name and address, or to register a legal name [i.e. the commenterâ€™s name and, presumably, a mailing address]â€
The statute further requires that bloggers â€œestablish and maintain reasonable procedures to enable any person to request and obtain disclosure of the legal name and address of an information content provider who posts false or defamatory information about the person on a public forum websiteâ€. This would require bloggers to see that ANYONE who feels that he or she was defamed in a comment to be able to obtain from the blogger the name and address of the commenter who made what that person believes to have been a defamatory statement. All they have to do is ask.
Finally, a blogger who fails to establish and maintain such procedures (i.e. procedures for maintaining the names and addresses of all commenters) can be sued to for compensatory and punitive damages (big bucks) by anyone who is damaged by a defamatory remark posted by a commenter.
Anyone who has even a passing familiarity with the Internet and the blogosphere realizes what a ridiculous bill this is. More subtle, but still quite clear, are the potential First Amendment issues lurking in this stupid bill, which would: (a) hold bloggers responsible for failing to require each commenter to provide a â€œlegal name and legal addressâ€ if one such commenter makes a comment that turns out to be defamatory, and (b) discourage legitimate commenters (i.e. those not intending to defame anyone) from leaving comments.
Notably, but not surprisingly, the bill does not address the numerous reasons why many, if not all, legitimate commenters would reasonably be hesitant to toss his or her name and address into cyberspace. (Yo, Assamblyman … Identity Theft? Have you heard about it? It’s in all the papers.)
New Jersey is going to Hell in a hand basket, and we have an Assemblyman writing a bill dealing with the Internet, when, considering the ham-handedness of this bill, he should consider writing buggy whip legislation.
This bill is going nowhere.
Thanks to Committees of Correspondence for the Heads Up.