I’m working on a term paper for my Media Law class. The paper is all about attempts to regulate speech on the Internet, from the CDA and its little brothers COPA and CIPA, down to FEC Advisory Opinion 2005-16, with lots and lots of case law, starting with Holmes’ dissent in Abrams v. US in 1919. John Milton and JS Mill are also in play.
I’ll post lots more about this when the paper’s done, but I just wanted to point out to folks like Dave Winer that regardless of who supports which exact version of legislation currently swimming around the House of Representatives, the spirit is correct: Political speech online = news or opinion in a newspaper. It should be protected as such.
The FEC’s decision last Friday to classify Fired Up America as an organization deserving of the media exemption from current campaign finance laws does not decide the issue.. By the time the FEC votes on new rules, as ordered by a DC District Court, 4 of the 5 commissioners will likely have been replaced. So the decision is a good one, but it’s not the end of the story at the FEC.
Meanwhile, the EFF has included the “right to freely blog about elections” in a list of the freedoms for which they’re fighting on behalf of bloggers everywhere. Great, but the FEC rule changes aren’t just about the growing contingent of political bloggers — these changes affect the Internet as a medium for communication.
The sea change in the Internet that has, in recent years, brought us blogs, podcasts, wikis, and Web 2.0 has changed in how we use this network. If Web 1.0 was all about commerce, Web 2.0 is all about communication.
If you believe this, you need to get on board and back efforts to get political speech on the Internet exempted from campaign finance rules as soon as possible. We need to make sure that online advertising is regulated as advertising, and speech is unregulated as speech should be. The answer to the question “Who stands to benefit from this?” is you, and everyone you know who communicates online, whether they report the news, give their opinion, or answer your email.
Here’s the money quote from the FEC Advisory Opinion:
The Commission notes that an entity otherwise eligible for the press exception would not lose its eligibility merely because of a lack of objectivity in a news story, commentary, or editorial, even if the news story, commentary, or editorial expressly advocates the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate for Federal office.
[tags]FEC, blogs, EFF, Fired Up, Supreme Court, media law, mass communications[/tags]