New York Legislators Try to Control the Internet

Well intended politicians are at it again. Sigh.

Proposed legislation in both chambers [of the New York state legislature] would require New York-based websites, such as blogs and newspapers, to “remove any comments posted on his or her website by an anonymous poster unless such anonymous poster agrees to attach his or her name to the post.”

That is from an article at Wired, which rightly points out this proposed law would not pass even a basic challenge on constitutional grounds. But one would expect the people in the New York legislature to know that. Do they not? Or do they just not care?

What reason do these ignorant and/or apathetic politicians give for this proposed law?

Republican Assemblyman Jim Conte said the legislation would cut down on “mean-spirited and baseless political attacks” and “turns the spotlight on cyberbullies by forcing them to reveal their identity.”

[…]

Sen. Thomas O’Mara, a Republican who is also sponsoring the measure, said it would “help lend some accountability to the internet age.”

And yet,

Oddly, the bill has no identification requirement for those who request the takedown of anonymous content.

I do not mind that people want to do something about bullying. I am getting a little bit tired of the whining that some people say mean things. Just because someone said something you think is mean does not mean that person is a bully or a cyberbully. Some people are jerks, yes, but that is not the same as being a bully. And yes, some people are intellectually shallow. But again that does not not automatically make them bullies.

And now I am going to say something bound to be upsetting to some people. Sometimes, if you are offended it is because you are offendable. Which means maybe you just need to suck it up and go on. I’m not saying ignore actual bullying. I am saying that people are sometimes going to be mean even when they are not bullying, and if you cannot handle that, you have no one to blame but yourself. Becoming a mature adult involves, in part, learning to live with the fact that sometimes people will say or do things that seem mean. It is an unavoidable part of life. Whining that it is not fair is just childish.

Do not think I am letting bullies off the hook. On the contrary, as someone who has had to deal with being bullied in various forms, I do not generally tolerate that behavior for long. If you are genuinely bullied, stand up for yourself and address the issue. The answer to bullying speech, or any speech you do not like, is not to try to silence the offending person. The answer is more speech. In other words, the answer to bullying is not more bullying, but rather it is courage. Bullies gain power by you being afraid of them. Bullies loose power when you are not. Stand up to bullies. Do not become one yourself.

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