February 23, 2010

Anonymity breeds a bit of libel...

We’ll shed no tears over the demise of HB-1277 and HB-1278 at the state legislature yesterday (2/22/10).

The bills were crafted to help identify culprits who plaster the internet with anonymous comments that are libelous. Had they become law, they would have required web site operators to provide information about people who post articles or comments on their websites. Specifically, it would have sought logs that contain the Internet Protocol Addresses (IPA) of bloggers and people who post comments and other content onto web sites. Supporters said they were simply trying to give some recourse to people who’d been victimized by anonymous and libelous attacks on the internet.

Most of the speakers who provided testimony before the House State Affairs Committee – both pro and con – seemed to agree that something needs to be done. In the end, committee members indicated that these bills, even if passed into South Dakota law, would likely have little impact upon the worldwide web. They tabled HB-1277 and sent HB-1278 to the 41st day, effectively killing it.

We’re no fan of anonymity on the internet. Criticism is not regular fare on Black Hills Monitor or our any of our other sites, but we do occasionally take some institutions and individuals to task for what we consider to be their transgressions. That said, we try to keep above the gutter gibberish that adorns some blogs.

We suspect this issue will not go away. Nor should it. The worldwide web is a marvelous tool, but it is increasingly abused by individuals and corporations alike. At some point, the “blogosphere” will need to embrace better tools to keep it from being overrun by a cesspool of unscrupulous marketers and disgruntled rabble-rousers who hide behind anonymity while injecting libelous venom across blog postings.

Something must and something will be done about anonymous internet postings that defame folks. That was part of the message conveyed in this KELO-TV interview (below) with a former colleague of ours, Todd Epp of Sioux Falls. We agree with that position – but it won’t be HB-1277 or HB-1278.

1 comment:

Todd D. Epp said...

Thanks. Finally, a voice of reason on this issue. If the legislature doesn't set the test for the courts, the courts will. And like it or not, that day will come.

Todd Epp