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Fox News anchor advocates Internet ID system to ‘tone down the viciousness’

By Sahil Kapur
Friday, January 14, 2011 9:01 EDT
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The host of the Fox News Channel’s “On The Record With Greta Van Susteren” suggested an identification system for Internet users seeking to post and comment at online venues, predicting it would lighten up the national dialogue.

“I guarantee this would tone down the viciousness on the internet (and not step on the First Amendment)” was how she titled a post on her FoxNews.com blog “GretaWire.”

It was a response to a wide-ranging national debate on partisan rancor sparked by the tragic shootings last Saturday of twenty people in Tucson, Arizona, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), who was critically wounded.

Greta Van Susteren’s solution was to “create a system where people can freely and completely post comments BUT must simply identify themselves (name or email address),” insisting it wouldn’t impede First Amendment rights.

But anonymous commenters, she argued, tend to be more free-flowing in their vitriol as they face little risk in having their remarks traced back to them and being held accountable.

“A system of identification also smokes out the cowards,” she added.

The idea apparently mirrors a proposal put forth last week by the Obama administration, which would create an online identification system that White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Howard Schmidt said would be useful for “enhancing online security and privacy.”

The New York Times called it “Orwellian-sounding” and noted in a news headline that it “Sounds an Awful Lot Like a National Internet ID.”

“We are talking about a government-controlled system. That is exactly what we are talking about,” noted the Times article, which was written by Curt Hopkins of ReadWriteWeb.

But Aaron Brauer-Rieke of Center for Democracy & Technology, writing in the progressive blog Think Progress, defended the administration’s idea.

“Today, life on the Internet is supported by a rickety pile of insecure usernames and passwords,” he wrote. “If this identity infrastructure can be made more reliable, convenience is increased and innovation is promoted. The Internet is already a fantastic tool, but if it could be made more trustworthy, it would be more useful to us all.”

 
 
 
 
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