Yesterday, the Voice reported on pending legislation in Albany that would ban anonymous online speech. We took the time to catch up with New York State Sen. Thomas F. O'Mara and Assemblyman Dean Murray, who sponsored the bill, to see what they had to say. Quickly put, their basic idea is that the proposed legislation would cut down on cyber-bullying -- such as untrue, and unsigned, comments you might come across in a message board or on a blog.
Uncertainty over the Constitutionality of the bill persists, however, with one expert telling us: "I would like to see an argument -- and I haven't seen one -- that would authorize a legislature to determine what can be posted or not posted on a private website...the Constitution does not talk about websites or anonymity. The cases over the years suggest that the legislature has no business trying to tell editors what to print."
During our convo, we asked Murray about this. He countered that it was constitutional, citing the 1974 Gertz v. Robert U.S. Supreme Court Decision as evidence that the First Amendment does not protect against the falsehood-based mean-mongering you come across on the internet.
So what the hell is the Gertz decision, you might ask? More »