It appears that there is no social problem so worrisome or dangerous that it cannot be made even worse by a state legislator. And of late, it seems that the Republicans have been far more successful in recruiting idiots than Democrats.
Kansas State Representative Tim "Creepy" Couch wants to "keep your children safe" by ensuring they aren't harassed by "online bullies."
He intends to do this in such a way as to make sure that any pedophile with a website will have a legally unassailable reason for collecting your child's personally identifiable information. Oh, and yours too. Just in case they also happen to be into credit fraud.
It would be terribly insulting to allege that he's that stupid, considering how many fine organizations he belongs to, like the Chamber of Commerce and the Church of God. He's clearly networked a lot, and he's a small business owner, so it's implausible to suggest that in this day and age he's too dumb to understand the very basics of How Things Like These Here Tubez work. And, as a legislator, he must at least have a copy of the Constitution to review.
Now, as a republican, he must be somewhat familiar with the general distaste of conservative voters for undue regulation, and again, I take him to be a sincere example of a republican, and not some telegenic shill with a theocratic agenda. No, I'm sorry. He's probably not very telegenic.
So - and for reasons that will be clearer below, the most charitable assumption is that his sexuality makes him overly concerned about the "seduction of innocents."
He will make sure that every Kentucky website will have to collect this information and somehow verify it, in order to insure that no posts are made by people who cannot be somehow traced and held accountable. I'm sure, of course, the state will somehow magically make this financially and technically achievable.
Oh, I suppose it could be that he's been troubled by pseudonymonous online critics, though politicans are really not supposed to even contemplate drafting laws in response to personal pique. That would be unethical. If not outright illegal, instead of just blatantly unconstitutional.
Perhaps he's merely an unaccountably popular pinhead. But whatever the reason, his understanding of constitutional law, privacy rights, standard online safety advice for persons on the internet and of course, a decent Republican contempt for onerous, burdensome and whimsical laws that place undue expense upon small business owners is manifest.
Tech Policy Central: Kentucky Bill Seeks Ban on Anonymous Content: "Kentucky Bill Seeks Ban on Anonymous Content
Mar 10, 2008
A Kentucky state legislator named Tim Couch is quickly making a name for himself on the Internet after introducing a bill that would make it illegal to post content online anonymously.
The controversial proposal would require Web site owners to collect real names and contact information from anyone contributing content, and would require users to disclose their full name when posting any material. Couch says his intent is to reduce online bullying and harassment by making people identify themselves.
Leslie Harris of the Center for Democracy and Technology is among those who spoke out against the bill. In a blog post at CDT's site earlier today, she called the proposal 'unconstitutional' and 'dangerous' and warned that 'anonymity on the Internet is under attack.' Harris will be discussing online privacy at Tech Policy Summit later this month."
There are of course times even on the Internet where establishment of identity maybe important, but we seem to have forgotten the value of anonymous speech to our constitutional democracy. As the Supreme Court has made clear, “Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority.” McIntyre V Ohio Elections Commission (1995). Anonymity is what protects people from expressing an unpopular political view in a community where the majority holds vastly different political views and allows people to safely provide information about government misconduct. And for those living in repressive societies, anonymous speech is an enabler of human rights and political reform. If it was good enough for Publius, it should be good enough for the Internet.
I might note that I was listening to Thom Hartmann on Air America the other day, and he was recounting the number of people who signed the Declaration of Independance who had been subjected to "enhanced interrogation" by the British in order to secure "information vital to national security interests," such as, say, the location of the other persons who signed it.
One understands why Publius excercised discretion up until the penny dropped.
Of course, it would be far more inflammatory to suggest that Creepy Tom's motives might be to make an list of people for 2am pickup by unmarked black SUV's, so I think I will stick with the slightly less creepy speculation that his desire to "protect" children comes from some combination of stupidity, prudery and God-Bothering. But ince this is a fair and balanced blog, my dear readers, I shall leave which motivations are most plausible up to you.
The proposed Kentucky law is particularly dangerous because it not only requires the unmasking of all speakers in all circumstances, it exposes their personal information to potentially millions of people, putting privacy at risk. And since it is the website, rather than the individual, who is on the hook for fines, it puts all Internet sites in the role of gatekeeper, exactly what Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, 47 USC § 230 was intended to prevent.Hey, Kentucky - don't feel so bad. He's just a state legislator. We sent Ensign to the Senate!
It’s no small feat to draft a law that is unconstitutional, clearly preempted by federal law and unenforceable. But many state legislatures are in session and it’s only Tuesday.