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Illinois State Senator Ira Silverstein desperately needs a history lesson
This intellectual neanderthal believes anonymous commenters on the internet are a threat to Freedom and Liberty, forgetting that the Founding Fathers and framers of the Constitution of the United States of America wrote the Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers using pseudonyms to protect themselves.
On February 13, 2013 Senator Silverstein introduced SB1614 into the Illinois Senate.
Creates the Internet Posting Removal Act. Provides that a web site administrator shall, upon request, remove any posted comments posted by an anonymous poster unless the anonymous poster agrees to attach his or her name to the post and confirms that his or her IP address, legal name, and home address are accurate. Effective 90 days after becoming law.
The “Internet Posting Removal Act” would make failure to remove anonymous comments from your website a crime. While the bill in its current form does not specify the penalty for refusing to acquiesce to this ridiculous bill, should it gain any traction with his fellow 1-percenters in the Illinois State Senate, those penalties will surely be harsh and in direct contradiction to the Supreme Court of the United States.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) noted on its website that the “right to anonymous speech is also protected well beyond the printed page.”
The 1995 Supreme Court ruling in McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission said, in part,
Protections for anonymous speech are vital to democratic discourse. Allowing dissenters to shield their identities frees them to express critical minority views . . . Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority. . . . It thus exemplifies the purpose behind the Bill of Rights and of the First Amendment in particular: to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation . . . at the hand of an intolerant society.
The EFF article on anonymity on the internet goes on to say,
The tradition of anonymous speech is older than the United States. Founders Alexander Hamilton James Madison and John Jay wrote the Federalist Papers under the pseudonym “Publius “ and “the Federal Farmer” spoke up in rebuttal. The US Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized rights to speak anonymously derived from the First Amendment.
The right to anonymous speech is also protected well beyond the printed page. Thus in 2002 the Supreme Court struck down a law requiring proselytizers to register their true names with the Mayor’s office before going door-to-door.
These long-standing rights to anonymity and the protections it affords are critically important for the Internet. As the Supreme Court has recognized the Internet offers a new and powerful democratic forum in which anyone can become a “pamphleteer” or “a town crier with a voice that resonates farther than it could from any soapbox.”
As Bob Livingston so correctly points out in his article “Outing Richard Saunders”,
In 1732, Richard Saunders began publishing an almanac filled with humorous sayings and sage advice. Twenty-six editions were published. The book was Poor Richard’s Almanack, and Richard Saunders was, in fact, Benjamin Franklin.
Franklin used many pseudonyms, often creating whole personalities for the “writer.” Among them were Silence Dogood, Caelia Shortface, Martha Careful, Harry Meanwell, Alice Addertongue, Timothy Turnstone, Busy Body, Anthony Afterwit, Polly Baker and Benevolus.
The papers that later became known as The Federalist and The Anti-Federalist were written under pseudonyms. Publius was actually Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay. Then there was Agrippa, Brutus, Caesar, Cato, Cincinnatus, Federal Farmer, Harrington, A Landholder, Senex and Sydney, among others.
Anonymous political speech has a rich and storied history in America. Even though the 1st Amendment guarantees the right of all Americans to freely express themselves, the elected class and the 1 percent often object to having the light of truth shined on them. They don’t like it when people express views that make them uncomfortable.
Power-hungry wannabe tyrants like Senator Ira Silverstein clearly don’t like people talking about them. Unless, that is, Silverstein can know who you are and where you live so he can come and terrorize you for your unwanted comments.
Here in Canada anonymous online comments are protected from state thuggery as former Aurora Mayor Phyllis Morris found out, much to her dismay. In the leadup to her failed re-election bid Phyllis Morris attempted to silence her critics by suing bloggers for the comments of anonymous third parties and she also tried to force internet service providers to release the identities of those anonymous commenters.
Her case failed spectacularly and is a lesson for any other Canadian politician who thinks he or she can prevent we “mere citizens” from commenting, anonymously or not, on the actions of public figures.
As I wrote in my November 25, 2012 article “A Resounding SLAPP in the face for Politicians Wishing to Stifle our Freedom of Speech”,
It’s obscene that, in a nation that supposedly prides itself on the Rights and Freedoms of every citizen, a politician at any level of government would dare try to extort a citizen into silence.
That Phyllis Morris now must pay back $21,275 in legal costs to Johnson and Hogg is the loudest and best “shot across the bow” I’ve ever had the pleasure to write about.
It’s refreshing to see our right to Freedom of Speech upheld so convincingly, and that a politician so clearly undeserving of elected office as Phyllis Morris was soundly put in her place.
Hopefully Illinois State Senator Ira Silverstein will likewise be put in his place when he comes up for re-election.
Intellectual bullies like Phyllis Morris and Ira Silverstein have no place legislating away comments about their poor performance and lack of character. That they seek to do so only proves how thoroughly unfit they are for public service.