Maybe a law banning anonymous online comments pushes constitutional boundaries.
A group of Albany, N.Y., assemblymen who want to outlaw clandestine comments online are coming under fire.
They want to eliminate cyberbullying, business smear campaigns based on false reviews and unwarranted assaults on public figures — all things generally agreeable as being wrong.
It is important to note that the law wouldn't outlaw the ability to make those comments, it would just require that people stand behind their heckles, jeers, falsehoods and criticisms.
Critics say anonymous speech is vital to democracy. Without that shield minority points of view may never be heard. But isn't that, perhaps, a more important part of the First Amendment — to allow anyone to say pretty much what they want without fear of prosecution?
There are, of course, already limits involved. Someone making risky comments about national security could show up on federal watch lists. Should the promise of anonymity protect potential terrorists as well?
Free speech is a touchy subject. And it is probably in the best interest of the nation to allow wholesale freedom, including unidentified online blurbs.
But if all that Albany lawmakers are asking of website posters is to say what the mean — and to mean what they say — that doesn't seem so bad. It is probably a rule of thumb the lawmakers themselves should more closely follow.
(City editor Rick Kazmer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his blog, "The Kazmer Report at dailyamerican.com, or scan the code at left. The latest blog entry features more on Albany and the controversial online comment law.)