Monday, April 20, 2009

Law, Politics and the Internet

This past election was a prime example of candidates and ballot-initiative groups using the Internet to further a political agenda.

The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (aka the McCain-Feingold Act) restricts campaigning within “public communication” spheres, including television and radio. Yet, campaign finance laws have not been adequately updated to reflect the Internet and the adaptation of new technologies.

The FEC has issued regulations on the use of the Internet in relation to campaigns, but with over 600 pages worth of regulations the rules are still unclear.

For example, the press is traditionally exempt from FEC regulations, so long as they engage in “real” news. However, the law becomes fuzzy when dealing with websites and blogs that partake in “real” reporting, but also engage in advocacy and fundraising.

Furthermore, should FEC laws extend to social networking sites? Should individuals with thousands of followers/friends be regulated if they tweet/update asking people to donate to a specific candidate? What about multiple candidates? What if this individual belongs to particular organization or works for a specific company?

Over the next few years reformers and free speech activists will be participating in a heated debate over the regulation of individual political speech online.

Where do you stand on this issue? Should individual political Internet activity be regulated?

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