Political Speech on Internet to Remain Unregulated

Bloggers are off the FEC hook:

The Federal Election Commission decided Monday that the nation’s new campaign finance law will not apply to most political activity on the Internet.

In a 6-0 vote, the commission decided to regulate only paid political ads placed on another person’s Web site.

The decision means that bloggers and online publications will not be covered by provisions of the new election law. Internet bloggers and individuals will therefore be able to use the Internet to attack or support federal candidates without running afoul of campaign spending and contribution limits.

“It’s a win, win, win,” Commissioner Ellen L. Weintraub said, adding that the rule would satisfy concerns of campaigns, individuals and the Internet community about whether the campaign finance law applies to Internet political activity.

Michael Toner, FEC Chairman, spelled out details about the new FEC regulations on RedState. Here’s a snippet:

The exemption for individual Internet activity in the final rules is categorical and unqualified. Individual online political activity will be protected from FEC restriction regardless of whether the individual acts alone or as part of a group, and regardless of whether the individual acts in coordination with a candidate or acts independently. The exemption applies no matter who owns the computer equipment the individual uses and no matter where the Internet activities are performed. The final rules, thus, avoid disparate treatment of individuals who may not be able to afford to purchase their own computer and explicitly protect individuals who may borrow a computer from a friend, neighbor, family member, or anyone else to do political activity.

The exemption in the final rules protects Internet activities by individuals in all forms, including emailing, linking, blogging, or hosting a website. The exemption encompasses all types of Internet equipment and services, including computer hardware, software, ISP services, and Internet domain names. The exemption also includes “any other technology that is used to provide access to or use of the Internet,” to ensure that future innovations in computer equipment and services are protected. Under the exemption, an individual or group of individuals can spend whatever money they wish on their Internet activities without any of the expenditures being considered a contribution to the candidates they support, even if the activities are done in direct consultation with the candidates or with the candidates’ campaign staff. In all these respects, the final rules recognize that the online political speech of individuals should not be restricted by the Commission in any way, and I strongly support this result.

Excellent news for all those who opine about politics and politicians on the internet.

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4 Comments

  1. Stephen Macklin March 27, 2006
  2. Omni March 27, 2006
  3. bryanD March 27, 2006
  4. Veeshir March 28, 2006