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Free Speech for Bloggers - (potential for McCain-Feingold to be applied to internet)

Posted on 06/02/2005 9:12:14 AM PDT by CHARLITE

Here's our advice to the Federal Election Commission regarding Internet regulations: Tread lightly. If the federal government must apply campaign-finance laws, specifically McCain-Feingold, to the Internet as a federal judge ruled last fall, it should do so with as light a touch as possible. Unfortunately, no matter what the FEC decides, there's a chance that the days of unbridled political discourse on the Internet are nearing their end. The good news is that, until the judge's ruling, the FEC had exempted the Internet from the law. This makes us optimistic that there is little interest among the FEC commissioners to anger the online, pajama-clad bloggers. For instance, included in the FEC's "Notice of Proposed Rulemaking" is a rule to expand the news-media "exemption" of the law to include Internet news sites. Presumably, this would include bloggers -- but don't be so sure.

Instead, the focus of the NPRM is to extend the definition of "public communications" to include paid advertisements placed on third parties' Web sites. While appearing minor, this in fact carries some fairly onerous demands. As the Center for Democracy and Technology notes, assuming that NPRM is approved in its entirety, an individual planning to express his views on the Web would have to consult Chapter 11 of the Code of Federal Regulations to determine if his speech would be treated as a "public communication";

(Excerpt) Read more at ...

TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; Editorial; Government; News/Current Events; Philosophy; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: campaign; campaignfinance; commission; election; federal; finance; freespeech; internet; mccainfeingold; reform; regulations

1 posted on 06/02/2005 9:12:15 AM PDT by CHARLITE
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media "exemption" of the law to include Internet news sites

Why don't they just exempt everyone and throw out this silly law that doesn't work and shouldn't have been passed?

2 posted on 06/02/2005 9:23:07 AM PDT by traviskicks (
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So, what if you register your domain to a foreign address and host it on a server abroad? Does the whole business become illegal because foreigners aren't supposed to contribute to internal US political campaigns? And how would you enforce that?

None of these articles take into account the nature of the internet. Perhaps it will not forever be true that the internet perceives censorship as damage and routes around it, but it's awfully hard to see how the FEC can throw that much weight in cyberspace.

3 posted on 06/02/2005 9:24:41 AM PDT by prion (Yes, as a matter of fact, I AM the spelling police)
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It is relatively easy to apply these laws to broadcasters because they are at a fixed location and they hold their licenses at the pleasure of the FCC. One threatening letter and the offensive free speech is removed from the air.

A website isn't tied to a specific location or server. If a hosting service pulls a site, just find a new hosting service. So the only way to shut down a site permanently will be to make the person creating it shut it down. It will only take a few people getting arrested and doing the perp walk for expressing political opinions to anger the populous. I hope the public would be outraged when this happens. However, I don't expect the main stream media to publically broadcast the arrests of their main competitors.

4 posted on 06/02/2005 9:32:10 AM PDT by KarlInOhio (Republicans and Democrats no longer exist. There are only Fabian and revolutionary socialists.)
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To: prion

"...but it's awfully hard to see how the FEC can throw that much weight in cyberspace."

They can't, and I think they know this...unless they adopt a "China" style form of Internet censorship. Now I could be wrong, but I don't see this happening, at least in the relatively near future.

In fact, I think the McCain-Feingold act will eventually end up on the scrap heap of unenforced legislation, much like the vast majority of our immigration laws.

I am sick and tired of these little "Mugabe" tin pot dictator Federal judges telling the masses what they must do.

5 posted on 06/02/2005 9:37:04 AM PDT by Adiemus
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I truly believe this has the potential to cause as much civil strife as abortion being made illegal. And the people doing the striving have all the guns.

6 posted on 06/02/2005 9:48:03 AM PDT by papertyger
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Bill of Rights
Amendment I

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

From Glenn Reynolds,

So much for all that "make no law" stuff, I guess. John McCain should be tarred and feathered, not spoken of as a presidential timber, for the travesty he produced. On the other hand, here's some constructive advice:

"In keeping with the judge's order, however, the FEC has to do something. It has asked for public comment on the proposed rules and e-mails that can be sent to until the deadline tomorrow.

"Barring a reversal of the judicial ruling, the only alternative would have to come from Congress, where there are currently bills in both chambers to exempt the Internet from FEC regulations. We encourage lawmakers to support the bills so that Internet free speech can advance unimpeded."


UPDATE: Ron Coleman points out that free speech isn't just for the Internet. And several readers not that McCain isn't solely at fault. That's true. In my speech at the Politics Online conference, I noted that in my opinion President Bush violated his oath of office by signing McCain-Feingold.

-- Glenn Reynolds,, June 2, 2005

* * *

New Penumbra: "Internet Free Speech"

Glenn Reynolds links to an editorial in the Washington Times that urges "Free speech for bloggers," to which Glenn adds, "and everyone else." But while that caveat in his headline is appreciated, it does tend to get lost in the sauce. The key language pulled from the editorial by Instapundit is, "Unfortunately, no matter what the FEC decides, there's a chance that the days of unbridled political discourse on the Internet are nearing their end. . . . We encourage lawmakers to support the bills so that Internet free speech can advance unimpeded."

Why "unbridled political discourse on the Internet"? Why "Internet free speech can advance unimpeded"?

As I have said before, I think this is a terrible formulation, both rhetorically and legislatively. It allows Congress to buy off the for-the-moment influential blog medium while continuing to savage the Constitution for other media -- including, conceivably, as-yet undeveloped or unrealized media -- via the notorious McCain-Feingold anti-sedition legislation. The best thing the "Blogosphere" -- right, left and center -- can do in connection with this issue is refuse to be bought by a dubious, and prospectively temporary, carve-out for "Internet free speech" only.

-- Ronald Coleman,, June 2, 2005
7 posted on 06/02/2005 10:07:20 AM PDT by OESY
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One of the assertions was that partisan political links were "in kind" contributions and would be subject to taxes. One particularly alert Republican analyst theorized that other, non-political links could likewise be considered "in kind" contributions.

The result: Put a link to a charitable organization on your site and deduct it from your taxes.

That would throw the whole system out of whack.

8 posted on 06/02/2005 10:09:20 AM PDT by SJSAMPLE
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Oh! NO! If Political Discourse on the internet is outlawed, it will be harder to find than Pornography or Gambling.....

9 posted on 06/02/2005 10:18:29 AM PDT by Onelifetogive (* Sarcasm tag ALWAYS required. For some FReepers, sarcasm can NEVER be obvious enough.)
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10 posted on 06/02/2005 10:43:15 AM PDT by Alia
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Excellent points. I wonder how many bills have been introduced to repeal the unconstitutional McCain-Feingold law by the fearless Republicans in Congress?

11 posted on 06/02/2005 11:06:29 AM PDT by Bogolyubski
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When does an internet news site become an internet news site? Far as I'm concerned, this is just another day of gathering in on a site in cyberspace w/ a few million of my friends at FR. No different than the 10 or so folks who come to my non-political site and post comments periodically.

12 posted on 06/02/2005 11:21:07 AM PDT by hispanarepublicana (I was Lucy Ramirez when being Lucy Ramirez wasn't cool.)
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Bloggers And The FEC - Update

If you've read through the Federal Election Commission Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding "public communication" you'll notice that they appear to be trying to lurch toward regulating political blogs and other internet communication, but they're doing so by trying to shave the sides of their square regulatory peg to fit it into the circular hole of the internet. While there is a bipartisan effort in the House and the Senate (Bills by Congressman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) and Senator Harry Reid (D-NV)) to exclude the Internet from the definition of "public communication" in the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2002, there is a June 3rd deadline for public comment on the FEC's proposed rules.

The Chicago Tribune picks up the story of the FEC's proposed rules, and notes this from said FEC Commissioner Bradley Smith who first alerted bloggers to the impending changes, "The fundamental presumption has changed from the Internet being unregulatable to now it will be regulated."

Red at Scared Monkeys has a list of questions for the FEC, that as of yet do not have good answers. Mike Krempasky at RedState attempts to answer a few of the questions, though the answers do not bode well for political bloggers. Sean Hackbarth has a rather interesting plan to fight regulation. Greg Prince at UNCoRRELATED says, "Getting blogs entangled in FEC regulations and campaign finance regulation is a profoundly bad idea. That's all there is to it."

FEC treads into sticky web of political blogs - [Chicago Tribune]

-- Kevin Aylward,, June 1, 2005
13 posted on 06/02/2005 11:56:56 AM PDT by OESY
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