New Jersey Law Would Ban Anonymous Forum Posting

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New Jersey Assemblyman Peter Biondi has introduced legislation that would essentially ban anonymous forum posting, and which would hold forum hosts liable for defamatory statements and injury made on their forums!

In its legislative introduction, the synopsis of the law says that it “makes certain operators of interactive computer services and Internet service providers liable to persons injured by false or defamatory messages posted on public forum websites.”

Yow!


Those “certain operators” will be those who fail to require those posting to their forums to register a real name and address, or who fail to disclose that information to those who feel that they have been defamed on those forums.

The law reads, in relevant part:


“The operator of any interactive computer service or an Internet service provider shall establish, maintain and enforce a policy to require any information content provider who posts written messages on a public forum website either to be identified by a legal name and address, or to register a legal name and address with the operator of the interactive computer service or the Internet service provider through which the information content provider gains access to the interactive computer service or Internet, as appropriate.

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And:

“An operator of an interactive computer service or an Internet service provider shall establish 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 website.”

There is speculation that this bill is in response to anonymous posts regarding Biondi’s own Hillsborough township, and indeed Biondi himself, on popular NJ.com.

 

Of course, such a law would have wide-reaching effects, and not be limited to those only in New Jersey.

Any person using forums in New Jersey would be at risk of having their identity disclosed if they registered their real name and contact information. Any person operating a forum in New Jersey even if they live somewhere else will be at risk not only if they don’t require registration, but even if they require registration and the person lies during the registration process! That language doesn’t say “must require”, it says “must require and enforce“! And if you live elsewhere, but run a forum in New Jersey, that would meet the “doing business in” test for New Jersey to exercise jurisdiction over you!

The only thing open to question if this law passes is whether someone who lives and operates a forum outside of New Jersey would have sufficient connections to New Jersey to allow for prosecution if someone in New Jersey is able to post to that forum; and let me tell you folks, reasonable minds can differ on that one given the nature of the Internet, and interstate commerce.

Let’s hope that the good folks of New Jersey give this one the old heave ho.

After all, there is no requirement for you to register your name and address before speaking in the public square. Why should the Internet be any different?

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The Internet Patrol is and always has been free. We don't hide our articles behind a paywall, or restrict the number of articles you can read in a month if you don't give us money. That said, it does cost us money to run the site, so if something you read here was helpful or useful, won't you consider donating something to help keep the Internet Patrol free?
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4 thoughts on “New Jersey Law Would Ban Anonymous Forum Posting

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