As noted previously, there were rumblings of a bill that would seriously curtail certain anonymous speech in South Dakota (commenting on blogs and other websites). Now, the bill is here. Pat Powers is staying on the situation with his post here (including the full bill) and the follow up (addressing those who would be affected).
Here are a few questions:
- Where are the circumstances where the lack of this law has resulted in grievous harm to a person or persons? Generally, one passes laws to correct gaps in existing law. It would be nice to know exactly what situation/crime prompted this law.
- Does this law only pertain to blogs/websites which are hosted in South Dakota or simply those which are written/administered by South Dakotans? For example, if I were part of a group blog with one (or dozens of) other writers–does this apply even if I am the only South Dakota blogger in the group and the blog is hosted in Seattle?
- Does the hosting company have any legal requirements to ensure that the logs are kept? After all, I might keep the logs, but the hosting provider might remove them to keep me from running out of the space I have rented from them on the server (for example) unless I wish to pay for more space.
- How long must the logs be kept? If I shut down my blog/website, do I need to store these somewhere for a certain number of years?
- How would this works for stuff like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Tumblr–where as one user among millions, I don’t have access to the logs? Does it mean that each of these companies is on the hook because some of their users live in South Dakota?
- And, the most important question: Under what part of the South Dakota or United States constitution do the sponsors of this bill find legal basis for this direct curtailment of free speech?
I’m sure there are even more questions which could be asked, but this enough for now. Yes, there are times when people take advantage of being anonymous to say unkind things about other people. People do this in large groups at political rallies, at sporting events, etc. People do this on blogs.
Part of being human is knowing that other humans will be unkind. However, when someone is unkind in my house–it is my personal responsiblity to deal with it in the way I deem most correct. Sometimes that means I invite the person to leave, sometimes it means I stop having guests at all. If I want to allow the person to stay and say what they will, I can choose that as well.
This bill is intended to address libel and slander. We already have a number of laws which handle that. Not to mention that the threshold for such findings is (and should be) quite high.
To all the senators and representatives who are backing HB 1278, I appreciate your desire to right the wrongs of public speech–but it really is none of your concern as duly elected public servants. The only thing which is worse than putting no law in place is putting in bad law. Allow me to state, for the record, that I mean no libel or slander against any of the following individuals by any of the above:
Representatives Hamiel, Bolin, Brunner, Carson, Cutler, Deadrick, Fargen, Gibson, Gosch, Greenfield, Hoffman, Hunt, Iron Cloud III, Jensen, Juhnke, Kirkeby, Kopp, Krebs, Lederman, McLaughlin, Moser, Olson (Betty), Schlekeway, Sly, Sorenson, Turbiville, Vanneman, and Verchio and Senators Turbak Berry, Brown, Dempster, and Vehle.
If any of these individuals represent you–please let them know that their representation is lacking.