There are few areas that can rival the number of ill conceived and downright stupid laws as the internet.  It’s certainly fertile ground for policy makers especially when you consider that many internet laws are completely unenforceable.

So step forward the latest offering being drafted in the Illinois State Senate, to completely eradicate any form of anonymity online. The method is to force any webmaster to remove any comments posted which don’t have a recorded IP address and a verified real name attached to it.

This mindless piece of legislation is to be called Internet Posting Removal Act and just in case you think it’s a joke, the status is here – SB614. The act will provide that the webmaster shall remove any comments by an anonymous poster unless they agree to attach their names to a post and confirms their address, legal name and IP address.

This is supposed to cover forums, web sites, blogs, message boards and any other webpage where people can discuss anything. The webmaster should also provide forms and contact points where people can request such removals or verifications.

The first point that occurs when you read the bill (go and I dare you), is that those people drafting it have very little idea of how any of this technology works.  I’m sure none of them have much idea about how a proxy or VPN works – hint try this link. Or how easy it is to modify and hide your real identity. The amount of people using security software, proxies or VPNs to hide their location just so they can watch the BBC or Canadian TV in the US for instance.

How any poor webmaster is going to verify real names and addresses to every poster on their site is a complete mystery.  It’s nonsense on so many levels, but the sheer scale of what they are suggesting is hopefully the first block that means this madness will never get out of Illinois. But just in case stay vigilant because if the Internet Posting Removal Act makes it to the senate then truly anything however ridiculous is possible!

Joe Jenkins