Making pseudonyms illegal

There’s no stupid person like a stupid legislator, except a stupid legislator with some idle time on his hands.

A Kentucky lawmaker wants to make posting anonymously online illegal in his state.

I mean, how exactly is this to be imposed?

The bill would require anyone who contributes to a website to register their real name, address and e-mail address with that site.

Their full name would be used anytime a comment is posted.

If the bill becomes law, the website operator would have to pay if someone was allowed to post anonymously on their site. The fine would be five-hundred dollars for a first offense and one-thousand dollars for each offense after that.

Yeah, that will work out well.

Moving a server across state lines pretty much guts this approach, but aside from the lack of enforceability, the concept of preventing anonymous “Letters To The Editor” dates back to the founding of the printed word in America.

From a PBS article:

During the eighteenth century, it was common for writers and journalists to use pseudonyms, or false names, when they created newspaper articles and letters to the editor. Franklin used this convention extensively throughout his life, sometimes to express an idea that might have been considered slanderous or even illegal by the authorities; other times to present two sides of an issue, much like the point-counterpoint style of journalism used today.

When Franklin used a pseudonym, he often created an entire persona for the “writer.” Sometimes he wrote as a woman, other times as a man, but always with a specific point of view. While all of his writings were focused and logical, many were also humorous, filled with wit and irony. Silence Dogood, Harry Meanwell, Alice Addertongue, Richard Saunders, and Timothy Turnstone were a few of the many pseudonyms Franklin used throughout his career.

The legislator, Representative Tim Couch, says he’s doing this to prevent online bullying. I have news for you, Rep. Crouch.


What is online bullying? Is posting “You Suck!” considered an offense? Do I have to call your genetic heritage into question before you consider that a crime?

Do me a favor first, Representative Crouch. Tell the phone companies that would call me without providing their Caller ID to start ponying up a few dollars for hiding who the hell they are. Tell the phone companies to start paying you to allow anonymous phone solicitation to my house, because I consider that a crime, too!

And tell all the people on the highways to post their name and address on the back of their cars, because bullying on the highways ought to be a crime, too!


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UPDATE: The Federalist Papers were also written anonymously by “Publius” and rebutted by “the Federal Farmer”.

And the Supreme Court ruled in 1995 in the case McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission wrote:

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.

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