Mar 10, 2008 Political
Republican Tim Couch of Kentucky is introducing legislation making it a crime to post to the Internet anonymously. His bill would make it a crime for a person who runs a website to allow anonymous comments and would require people to register with the website using their real names.
Couch proposes a first offense $500 dollar fine to those who allow anonymous comments. Subsequent “violations” would cost $1000. Couch states that this is to cut down on online bullying which he claims happens a lot in his home state.
The First Amendment states that Congress shall make no law that abridges free speech. Couch is a member of his state legislature and it would have to enact this law which would abridge free speech. Certainly he is not in the US Congress but he would be part of a government body trying to curb free speech. If a website owner wants to delete bullying comments or ban commenters then that is the web site owner’s prerogative. The government (state or otherwise), on the other hand, is forbidden from doing this by the First Amendment.
Couch might believe that this would stop online bullying but I have my doubts. I also doubt he is strictly motivated by the bullying “problem.” People could register using any name that appears legitimate. How would a webmaster know? Why would a webmaster be fined because John Doe commented? We don’t get the names of every person who joins a protest and some of the signs they carry have messages that could be considered bullying and certainly some of their actions amount to bullying. Will we require those who carry disparaging signs to disclose their names?
Couch is trying to stifle free expression and that is a violation of our Constitution. Perhaps the bullying he refers to comes from those who write about the stupidity of members of government, such as say….Tim Couch.
It is not the job of government to be the nannies of all Americans whether at the state or federal level. The government works for us, not the other way around. We have the right to express ourselves as we wish and website owners are free to police their sites as they see fit, not as Mr. Couch sees fit. Perhaps Mr. Couch would better serve his constituents if he did some serious work rather than try to play nanny to Kentucky citizens who can do quite well without an intrusive government or its officials.
As Ronald Reagan once said; “We are a nation that has a government – not the other way around.” One could substitute state for nation and it would still be just as meaningful.
Maybe Mr. Couch should reexamine his conservative values and either straighten them out or switch parties.
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