Thursday, November 03, 2005

House Moves Closer to Regulating Online Speech

Ah, you can always count on the House for stupid bills:

Online political expression should not be exempt from campaign finance law, the House decided Wednesday as lawmakers warned that the Internet has opened up a new loophole for uncontrolled spending on elections.

The House voted 225-182 for a bill that would have excluded blogs, e-mails and other Internet communications from regulation by the Federal Election Commission. That was 47 votes short of the two-thirds majority needed under a procedure that limited debate time and allowed no amendments.

The vote in effect clears the way for the FEC to move ahead with court-mandated rule-making to govern political speech and campaign spending on the Internet.

How is this not a violation of free speech? I mean, come on, even if you want to use the spectre of campaign finance reform to push this, there is a legitimate distinction between "speech" in which one pays a large broadcaster commercial rates for airtime and speech in which one manages one's own medium (a website). With a television commercial you pay someone to deliver an audience for your message, and so money gives leverage and lack of money leaves one stifled. With a website one puts the message out there for interested parties to read, and bringing people to the site relies on word of mouth (which absolutely is not and should not be controlled).

Oh, and in case you were curious how this vote broke down, surprisingly, it was the Republicans who were in favor of exempting blogs, rather than the Democrats. Uhm, Dems, what the hell?

Yeas Nays NV
Republican 179 38 13
Democratic 46 143 13

Here's the heart of the matter...

Without his legislation, Hensarling said, "I fear that bloggers one day could be fined for improperly linking to a campaign Web site, or merely forwarding a candidate's press release to an e-mail list."

Bloggers from liberal and conservative perspectives made similar predictions at a hearing on the subject in September. "Rather than deal with the red tape of regulation and the risk of legal problems, they will fall silent on all issues of politics," said Michael J. Krempasky, director of the Web site

House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., writing Wednesday on a blog he recently started, said the bill "is about all the folks out in the blogosphere. It's going to protect what you say. It keeps the hand of the federal government out of Internet speech."

But Meehan said no one wants to regulate bloggers.

Uh huh, I buy that.

Posted by crimnos @ 8:23 AM

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The last free frontier is about to be corraled.

Posted by Blogger james @ 2:51 PM #
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