Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Is government regulation coming soon to a blog near you?

'The end of free blogging?':
...Political bloggers have thus far dodged the regulatory bullet. The McCain-Feingold Bill, which drastically curtailed freedom of speech by imposing limits on soft money contribution, does not apply to Internet speech—for the moment. The FEC sought to codify that “public communications” (which can be regulated under McCain-Feingold) did not include the Internet, but that addition was struck down by a District Court. In March of this year, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) tried to rectify this problem by proposing the “Online Freedom of Speech Act,” which would have excluded online content from “public communications.”

In response to this move, an alternative anti-free speech bill was proposed that would place under regulation those sites whose expenditures totaled more than $10,000 annually. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Tom Allen (D-Maine) and Charlie Bass (R-N.H.), was laughably titled “Internet Free Speech Protection Act.” This is a pure example of Orwellian double-speak, as the purpose of the bill is certainly not the protection of free speech on the Internet. This fact didn’t stop Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), a supporter of the Allen bill, from issuing a press release condemning Hensarling’s bill as the one being “deceptive.”

The result was a compromise of sorts. Hensarling’s bill (and the alternative) would be shelved because the FEC would release new rules for the Internet. On the plus side, all other online political activity goes unregulated. Unfortunately, online political advertising now falls under the McCain-Feingold regulations, meaning that the government has its foot in the door when it comes to online regulation...


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