ACLU CHALLENGES LAW BANNING ONLINE PSEUDONYMS

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is the lead plantiff in the legal challenge to a Georgia law that makes it a crime to use a mane that "falsely identifies" a speaker on the Internet. Proponents of the bill claim the measure is designed to prevent fraud. In a brief filed last September, the ACLU maintains that the law is unconstitutionally vague and overbroad, since it does not distinguish between speakers using false names with the intent to defraud and those who wish to protect their privacy or communicate unpopular views.

"Despite the fact that Georgia law criminalizes anonymous...communication, the government is now attempting to argue that the law only addresses fraudulent speech," says J. Scott McClain, who represents the plaintiffs. "[But] as it stands, our plaintiffs face a very real threat of jail or fines for transmitting constitutionally protected speech."

The law, which was passed by the Georgia General Assembly last year and became effective on July 1, 1996, provides criminal sanctions of up to 12 months in jail and/or up to a $1,000 fine for violations.

The 14 plaintiffs and organizations named in the ACLU v. Miller are: American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia; The AIDS Survival Project; the Atlanta Freethought Society; Atlanta Veterans Alliance; Community ConneXion; Electronic Frontier Foundation; Electronic Frontiers Georgia; Rep. Mitchell Kaye; Ken Leebow; Bruce Mirken; Bonnie L. Nadri; Josh Riley; John Troyer; and Jonathan Wallace.

Lawyers representing the plaintiffs are: J. Scott McClain (as volunteer attorney) of the Atlanta firm of Bondurant, Mixson and Elmore; Ann Beeson and Christopher Hansen of the national American Civil Liberties Union; and Gerald Weber, staff attorney with the ACLU of Georgia.

For complete information on the case, visit these online sites:
ACLU - http://www.aclu.org, or on AOL, keyword ACLU;
and EFGA - http://www.efga.org.

(Source: NCFE Quarterly, Spring 1997, and The American Civil Liberties Union On-Line)

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