Peter J. Biondi, NJ Assemblyman for District 16, has introduced A1327, a bill to force every ISP and website with comments/forums to demand user identification from every single poster (called an "information content provider" in the bill). While ostensibly an effort to stop defamation on the net, the identification requirements apply to all posters, not just those who defame others:
2. The operator of any interactive computer service or an Internet service provider shall establish, maintain and enforce a policy to require any information content provider who posts written messages on a public forum website either to be identified by a legal name and address, or to register a legal name and address with the operator of the interactive computer service or the Internet service provider through which the information content provider gains access to the interactive computer service or Internet, as appropriate.
The bill also forces all ISP and websites to turn over that information upon demand to anyone who claims to have been defamed, without any legal process or protections:
3. An operator of an interactive computer service or an Internet service provider shall establish and maintain reasonable procedures to enable any person to request and obtain disclosure of the legal name and address of an information content provider who posts false or defamatory information about the person on a public forum website.
There is no doubt that defamation is illegal, but this kind of a solution to the problem is a nightmare. There are many legitimate reasons to post anonymously online. For example, gay teens in homophobic areas often go online to ask questions anonymously about their sexual identity; sexual assault victims often seek support and recovery resources anonymously online; and patients interested in controversial procedures like abortion often need anonymity to seek medical information safely.
Under this bill, all of these people would have to identify themselves to any website to which they posted, leaving them open to harassment, stalking, and even physical attack. Moreover, the risk of identity theft, spam profiling, and other forms of information exploitation increase when we are forced to associate every activity we undertake online with who we are legally. The bill takes no precautions to avoid any of these pitfalls, especially since anyone can request the information by merely alleging the poster defamed them.