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New Jersey bill aims to stamp out Internet forum anonymity

Raw Story | March 7 2006

A bill introduced in the New Jersey Assembly would require websites to collect and make available the legal names and physical addresses of anyone posting on an Internet forum.

The law aims to prevent "false or defamatory messages" from being protected by anonymity.

Specifically, it requires that the legal names and addresses of anyone posting a defamatory message must be made available to any parties who claim to have been damaged.

The full text of the law follows:

#
A1327

Sponsored by: Assemblyman PETER J. BIONDI District 16 (Morris and Somerset)

SYNOPSIS

Makes certain operators of interactive computer services and Internet service providers liable to persons injured by false or defamatory messages posted on public forum websites.

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT

As introduced.

An Act concerning the posting of certain Internet messages and supplementing chapter 38A of Title 2A of the New Jersey Statutes.

Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

As used in this act:
"Information content provider" means any person or entity that is responsible, in whole or in part, for the creation or development of information provided through the Internet or any other interactive computer service.

"Interactive computer service" means any information system, service, or access software provider that provides or enables computer access by multiple users to a computer server, including specifically a service or system that provides service to the Internet.

"Internet" means the international computer network of both federal and non-federal interoperable packet switched data networks.

"Internet service provider" or "provider" means any person, business or organization qualified to do business in this State that provides individuals, corporations, or other entities with the ability to connect to the Internet through equipment that is located in this State.

"Operator" means any person, business or organization qualified to do business in this State that operates an interactive computer service.

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.

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.

Any person who is damaged by false or defamatory written messages that originate from an information content provider who posts such messages on a public forum website may file suit in Superior Court against an operator or provider that fails to establish, maintain and enforce the policy required pursuant to section 2 of P.L. , c. (C.) (pending before the Legislature as this bill), and may recover compensatory and punitive damages and the cost of the suit, including a reasonable attorney's fee, cost of investigation and litigation from such operator or provider.

This act shall take effect on the 90th day following enactment.

STATEMENT

This bill would require an operator of any interactive computer service or an Internet service provider to establish, maintain and enforce a policy requiring an information content provider who posts messages on a public forum website either to be identified by legal name and address or to register a legal name and address with the operator or provider prior to posting messages on a public forum website.

The bill requires an operator of an interactive computer service or an Internet service provider to 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.

In addition, the bill makes any operator or Internet service provider liable for compensatory and punitive damages as well as costs of a law suit filed by a person damaged by the posting of such messages if the operator or Internet service provider fails to establish, maintain and enforce the policy required by section 2 of the bill.

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