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FEC May Regulate Online Political Activity 302

Posted by timothy
from the hard-to-regulate-some-but-not-more dept.
jgarzik writes "A recent federal court ruling ordered the U.S. Federal Elections Commission (FEC) to rewrite rules that currently exempt, rather than regulate, political ads and speech on the Internet. Well, it's looking more and more likely that the FEC will not be able to avoid some amount of Internet regulation. I always thought that freedom of speech originated in part because the framers wanted to protect political speech. I guess I was being naive..."
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FEC May Regulate Online Political Activity

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  • 'Bout time (Score:2, Funny)

    by dupper (470576)
    I demand equal time in flamewars! No "keRry SI teH SUxx0rS omgROfLmaolololoOLOL!!!21!1@11!" should ever go unanswered!
  • by BigBuckHunter (722855) on Wednesday October 13, 2004 @01:12PM (#10514712)
    Won't be able to lie anymore on the internet?
  • by nharmon (97591) on Wednesday October 13, 2004 @01:13PM (#10514721) Homepage
    politics stink.

    * In order to conform to future FEC regulations on online political speech: I'm nharmon, and I approve this message.
  • by petersam (754644) on Wednesday October 13, 2004 @01:14PM (#10514728)
    If the FEC is currently regulating radio, TV and print ads, it should do so for Internet. The regulation has to do with coordination between candidates and PACs as well as spending levels and sources. The first amendment was not meant to protect your right to say anything, anywhere, anytime, so yes, you are naive. Supreme Court justices of all political bents have ruled that their are limits. In this case, the FEC helps provide a level playing field to *protect* our democracy from people yielding undue influence based on the size of their pockets.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      The first amendment was not meant to protect your right to say anything, anywhere, anytime...

      Actually.. it was...
      • Well, free speech is not merely vocal activity, but locomotion to a place or activity (organized or not). What good is free speech if one is prevented from traveling? This election will probably be one of THE most important in US history, and ear-bud-using candidates, bunglers, and inept types should not have the chance to incite MORE OUTUS resentment of the US. (Maybe changing our foreign policy will ease things a bit, and if the government sees terrorists as "nits" or mobsters who are the "cost of doing b
    • by CdBee (742846) on Wednesday October 13, 2004 @01:20PM (#10514774)
      So how do you stop "anonymous" campaign sites springing up and propagating by spam or google-bomb?

      gwbushsucks.cx or similar (made-up URL, not a real site as far as I am aware) might be hard to trace to an identifiable political body
      • gwbushsucks.cx or similar (made-up URL, not a real site as far as I am aware) might be hard to trace to an identifiable political body

        I see no problems with that, so long as everyone is able to do it.

        The only threat the printed word has is that it can be controlled, and that's just what the FEC is proposing.
    • by sommerfeld (106049) on Wednesday October 13, 2004 @01:32PM (#10514859)
      History has shown time and time again that it's hard to write laws and regulations to "level a playing field" without accdentally writing in exploitable loopholes. It's really the same sort of problem as the difficulty of writing secure software.

      Attempts to do this may well backfire and amplify the power of those with deep pockets -- they will be in a much better position to afford the lawyer time to look for loopholes in the laws and regulations, use them, and then defend that use in court.

      And as the regulations are incrementally patched to fix each loophole, they will increase in complexity, increasing the risks that the well-intentioned little guy will accidentally break them and end up muzzled.

      There's no good answer here, alas.

      I feel much better about regulations requiring a public audit trail of where the money came from and where it went, rather than attempting to create complex rules and "soft", "hard", etc., classes of money and donors.
      • . History has shown time and time again that it's hard to write laws and regulations to "level a playing field" without accdentally writing in exploitable loopholes. It's really the same sort of problem as the difficulty of writing secure software.
        >
        > Attempts to do this may well backfire and amplify the power of those with deep pockets -- they will be in a much better position to afford the lawyer time to look for loopholes in the laws and regulations, use them, and then defend that use in court.

        "T

    • by Brian_Ellenberger (308720) on Wednesday October 13, 2004 @01:35PM (#10514883)
      The first amendment was not meant to protect your right to say anything, anywhere, anytime, so yes, you are naive.

      First Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

      What part of "Congress shall make no law" don't you understand? It didn't say "Congress shall make no law except where it *really really* needs to. You either have free speech or your don't. Once you start limiting, there is no stopping how much you limit it.

      Brian

      • by petersam (754644) on Wednesday October 13, 2004 @01:48PM (#10515002)
        The Supreme Court, the group the Constitution created to interpret the laws, correctly have held that there are limits to speech that a free and safe society must have. The old "can't yell fire in a crowded theater" adage and inciting a riot. I'm not saying that limits on political speech fit in there, but if the FEC has been held as constutionally allowed to regulate political speech, then no matter how sarcastic you try to be with "what part of...don't you understand", it doesn't change how the U.S. works. I completely disagree that free speech is black and white as you say. It sounds like you would allow someone to say libelous, slanderous, or "fire in a theater" speech. Sorry - the slippery slope you see doesn't exist.
        • by geoffspear (692508) on Wednesday October 13, 2004 @01:58PM (#10515085) Homepage
          "The Constitution admittedly has a few defects and blemishes, but it still seems a hell of a lot better than the system we have now." - Robert Anton Wilson
        • The Supreme Court, the group the Constitution created to interpret the laws...

          Wrong. That power was self-invested by the Supreme Court in the Marbury vs. Madison case in 1803, as an act of partisan politics against the Jeffersonian Republicans. Nowhere in the Constitution is any court given the power to "interpret" law. ...correctly have held that there are limits to speech that a free and safe society must have.

          So, what you're saying is... the First Amendent is wrong? That is what you're saying, because the First Amendment patently disagrees with you.

          Now if we're gonna argue about whether or not the First Amendment means what it says, then I'll just go ahead and suggest we ought to make the Presbyterian Church in America the offical religion of the US, since the Constitution isn't supposed to be taken literally, or anything.
          • Article three, section two: "The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority" and "the supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact".
            • So the SCOTUS gets to decide which laws apply and what facts are true about the case. That's obvious.

              The only question is whether "The Judicial Power" mentioned at the beginning of the sentance conveyed more than jurisdiction over law and fact of Cases (in other words, the ability to choose which laws applied to which situations, and to judge which situations actually happened). On the face of things, it seems like a weak claim to say that this phrase conveys more power than is explicitly stated through th
          • [The power to interpret laws] was self-invested by the Supreme Court.

            Not at all; to interpret law is one of the primary functions of a judge. To find and argue interpretations is the main function of a lawyer. This state of affairs is a logical necessity, not a cruel and arbitrary caprice. Humans are not capable of writing laws that require no interpretation. The delicious silliness of your post is that the position you are trying to argue itself requires interpretation. Here is the text of the first amen
        • The slippery slope will exist if I post non-slanderous content on my site negative of a major candidate and I am forcibly shut down, address the issue to the courts as an abridgement of free speech and then do not win.

          just 2c
          -nB
      • by Jeff DeMaagd (2015) on Wednesday October 13, 2004 @02:01PM (#10515107) Homepage Journal
        Once you start limiting, there is no stopping how much you limit it.

        That is known as a slippery slope fallacy. There are, as another post puts it (in different words), reasonable and unreasonable limits. There are also different levels of protections based on what kind of speech.

        While your argument has a point, free speech doesn't protect you from a libel or slander suit if you said something that was libelous or slanderous. The incitement claim is pretty valid too. You can't expect to use your freedom to deliberately hurt others without merit and expect there be no legal consequences. The constitution apparently can't be used to protect a right to lie, there really doesn't seem to be one.

        Another example, if you take your first Amendment claim and apply it to the second, wouldn't you argue that the Federal government has no claim to prevent you from owning fully automatic machine guns? Or SAMs or fighter airplanes for that matter?
        • by ooby (729259) on Wednesday October 13, 2004 @02:26PM (#10515402)
          The argument that the decisions are stifling free speech is weak if you RTFA. The court ruled that regulations on political advertising in place on TV radio and print should be applied to the internet in order to prevent organizations from spending far much more money on advertisements than their opponents. It doesn't prevent ordinary joes from blogging their hearts out about politics.
      • by ajs (35943) <ajs&ajs,com> on Wednesday October 13, 2004 @02:05PM (#10515159) Homepage Journal
        What part of "Congress shall make no law" don't you understand?

        You're taking the naive approach to freedom of speech. There is a concept that has been around for a very long time, and which the courts have hammered out quite clearly as the standard interpretation of the first ammendment called "protected speech".

        If, for example, protected speech included everything you say or communicate in any way, then assault WOULD NOT BE ILLEGAL. Assault is clearly a case of laws being passed which restrict speech. Why should I not be allowed to say, "I'm going to kill you at 5PM tomorrow"? Why? because it's not protected speech.

        Political speech is, for the most part, studiously protected, but there are strong exceptions when it comes to the funding that speech and consuming massive amounts of advertising "real eastate". These are reasonable measures taken to prevent one canidate from "buying" and election (and, in fact, I feel they're not strong enough as they do not prevent a small handfull of candidates from locking in an election among them).

        If free speech were an absolute, a large fraction of the laws in this country at the federal and state levels would have been shot down by the Supreme Court over a century ago.
        • Why should I not be allowed to say, "I'm going to kill you at 5PM tomorrow"? Why? because it's not protected speech.

          I, for one, am all for that being protected speech. I certainly hope anyone planning on killing, injuring, or otherwise harming is polite enough to give me 24 hours notice. Ideally they'll say it in a recording I can provide to police. It's the criminals who commit crimes without announcing it in advance that worry me a bit more.


      • You either have free speech or your don't. Once you start limiting, there is no stopping how much you limit it.

        The more money you have the more "free" speech you can buy. Corporations are inaccurately classified as "persons" under the law so they get the same rights as real persons. Corporations have way more money than real persons so they pretty much own "free" speech. These silly laws that nip at the edges of our free speech rights are necessary to preserve the fiction that corporations are "persons
    • "The first amendment was not meant to protect your right to say anything, anywhere, anytime"

      Actually the first amendment does allow you to say anything, anywhere, anytime, but due to the courts believing that the framers of the consitution couldn't have possible meant ALL speech, they have contrued it to mean what you said. So know we live in a censored society, where speech is anything BUT free!
    • "In this case, the FEC helps provide a level playing field to *protect* our democracy from people yielding undue influence based on the size of their pockets."

      So I'm the only one here that thinks that having incumbent politicians in charge of voter education is a really, really bad idea?

      Or then there's this angle: If citizens can't be trusted to make the "correct" decision come election time in the middle of a sea of misinformation, why are we even bothering to let them vote at all?
    • The first amendment was not meant to protect your right to say anything, anywhere, anytime, so yes, you are naive.

      True enough. However, the First Amendment WAS meant to protect your right to political speech, i.e. advertising in favour of your favoured candidate.

      This particular slippery slope reached its own inversion point when the BCFRA (Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act, aka McCain-Feingold) became law a couple years ago. Since that Act was specifically aimed at regulating political speech (can'

    • Regulating radio, TV, and print ads within the US is easy to do because any organized advertising campaign will leave tracks and the media outlets can be subpoenaed. Regulating political ads on the internet is a whole different matter. How cooperative do you think the Chinese ISPs will be when the US FEC starts asking questions about who is paying for the smithsuxaspres.org website?
  • In other news, the servers of an online community called Slashdot were bombed by the USAF for "gross violations of goverment regulations"

    Film at 11. Stolen Honor at first, Fahrenheit 9/11 after commercial break.

    • Have to say it:

      Fahrenheit 911: facts never disputed. Mike's still waiting for someone to dispute:
      Bush's connections with the Sauds, the 7 minute wait (actually more like 19 - there was a photo session after "My Pet Goat"), the redirection of the "war" from AQ to Saddam with baseless accusations, the creation of a police state, the profiteering, the ignored death of the Iraqi civilians, the SS guarding the Saudi embassy... it's all true, and frankly not exactly news to people who read the news every day. Th
  • by lukewarmfusion (726141) on Wednesday October 13, 2004 @01:19PM (#10514764) Homepage Journal
    I just got a note from my neighborhood association stating that, while the neighborhood covenant specifically prohibits them, the Supreme Court has ruled that signs for political candidates are protected speech and cannot be overruled by neighborhood agreements (contractual or not).

    If they're going to regulate political speech from candidates, that's one thing. That's not regulation of the Internet, but regulation of campaigns no matter where they are executed. Regulating political speech on the Internet for the regular user won't happen - not likely in theory and definitely not in reality.
    • The problem comes about where you are an individual using your own property for a sign, not a company painting the candidate's banner on the face of their headquarters.

      Regulating what an individual can put up on their home page on the net would be, IMH(IANAL)O, unreasonable, as long as the "value" of the resources you put behind such an effort fell within the unregulated end of campaign contributions.

      What's quite reasonable is saying that a candidate or corporations and lobby groups supporting the candida
    • Knowing HOAs, they'll try to sue you anyway for putting up a sign. They'll find some obscure way to get around that rule. I'm not under one, and I'm glad, because I've heard horror stories about the crap they pull.
  • by rpdillon (715137) on Wednesday October 13, 2004 @01:19PM (#10514765) Homepage

    If you RTFA, once again, you'll find the submitter has no idea what they're talking about:

    U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly in Washington ordered the FEC to rewrite 15 rules, including regulations exempting Internet ads from the 2002 campaign finance law. The law bars outside groups from coordinating television and radio advertisements with candidates.

    To exempt certain types of communications runs completely afoul of this basic tenet of campaign finance law,'' Kollar- Kotelly said in a 157-page ruling. Two members of Congress filed the complaint that led to the decision.

    This has entirly to do with campaign finance, and whether Internet ads are included (or excluded) from campaign finance. It has nothing to do with free speech.

    • You're right that it has to do with finance, but it's an extension of the McCain-Feingold regulation of political speech to the Internet. Yes, it is about free speech on the Internet just as it's about free speech on TV.
    • The parent is right, the poster didn't actually read the article they were posting about. If you want campaign finance reform to work, even the slightly-less-broken one we have now, then it needs to apply everywhere.

      Money in politics is like Radon in my house, seeps in through every tiny crack and kills me slowly...
    • by Peyna (14792) on Wednesday October 13, 2004 @01:45PM (#10514982) Homepage
      This has entirly to do with campaign finance, and whether Internet ads are included (or excluded) from campaign finance. It has nothing to do with free speech

      Campaign finance law is all about free speech. Another poster commented that political speech by private parties is still protected; but that speech by candidates for office is in a position to be regulated. Accepting that statement as true, if you have actually read any campaign finance law (specifically the McCain - Feingold Act passed recently), it specifically restricts the speech of private citizens, basically prohibitting them from mentioning a specific candidate in an ad, among other things.

      (Not sure if the "Gun Shows Elect ..." ad is airing anywhere other than Ohio, but the ad makes a definite point of mentioning this restriction on their freedom of speech.)

      To reiterate, campaign finance reform specifically restricts the freedom of speech of private citizens, and their ability to make statements through the use of public broadcasts.

      Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 [fec.gov], specifically the section on Electioneering Communications.
      • by kinrowan (784107) <kinrowan@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday October 13, 2004 @02:13PM (#10515262) Homepage Journal
        The problem with this view is that it gives those who have more money more "free speech".

        I don't want George Soros or the Swift Boat Veterans for Bush to have more free speech than I do. I want them to have exactly the same amount, regardless of how much money they have or can gather. Simply because I get paid more than someone else does and can contribute more to someone's kitty for political ads doesn't mean that my views should be more widely disseminated.

        • by Peyna (14792)
          I don't really agree with what the BCRA did. It's a step in the right direction, but it still serves to incredibly strengthen the position of incumbents and the wealthy in elections.

          Look at the majority of gubernatioral, congressional, and senate races around the country. There is almost always at least one candidate who has a significantly greater amount of money available to them, and they are almost always leading in the polls. (If they are equals, the incumbent tends to lead.) When was the last tim
    • This has entirly to do with campaign finance, and whether Internet ads are included (or excluded) from campaign finance. It has nothing to do with free speech.

      "Campaign finance" is a proxy for regulating speech. It's what the political class is using to stifle criticism. There are jail terms associated with broadcasting a political message that regulators do not approve of, now. The framers must be turning over in their graves.

      This is the very speech that the 1st amendment was designed to protect.

      • "Campaign finance" is a proxy for regulating speech. It's what the political class is using to stifle criticism. There are jail terms associated with broadcasting a political message that regulators do not approve of, now. The framers must be turning over in their graves.

        Exactly. If you put up a web page that advocates voting for someone, that can be called an "ad" and your cost to put the page up counted as a "contribution" to the candidate you support. These contributions are strictly limited, and ad c

      • "Campaign finance" is a proxy for regulating speech. It's what the political class is using to stifle criticism. There are jail terms associated with broadcasting a political message that regulators do not approve of, now. The framers must be turning over in their graves.
        This is the very speech that the 1st amendment was designed to protect. Not nude dancing, not obscenity, not flag burning, but political speech is what they were trying to protect. How can the 1st amendment be so expansive as to include t
        • When the constitution was framed, most news was word of mouth, candidates actually debated *each other*

          True ...

          and there was no TV spreading any message that anyone with money wants to the vegetative masses.

          If you think that the "masses" are "vegetative", it's not clear why you want democracy at all! And how can you trust the political class to regulate what the "masses" can hear? Won't they just try to manipulate for their own interests?

          With out some form of regulation we would end up with t

  • And the money? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by general_re (8883) on Wednesday October 13, 2004 @01:22PM (#10514794) Homepage
    It seems to me that, typically, the people who complain the most vociferously about restrictions to political speech are also the ones who complain most vociferously about the presumed influence special-interest money has on the political process. Can't have it both ways. Free and unfettered speech means living with big money, and eliminating money from the equation necessarily means restricting free speech.
    • Except... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Red Rocket (473003) on Wednesday October 13, 2004 @02:17PM (#10515312)

      Free and unfettered speech means living with big money, and eliminating money from the equation necessarily means restricting free speech.

      Except that corporations are considered "persons" under the law (with all the rights that entails), are psychopaths [thecorporation.com] , and are vastly more wealthy than real persons. Their vast wealth is swamping the speech of real persons and elevating their agenda over the agenda of the people.

      Corporations are not persons.
  • by AK Marc (707885) on Wednesday October 13, 2004 @01:26PM (#10514819)
    I always thought that freedom of speech originated in part because the framers wanted to protect political speech. I guess I was being naive...

    Yes, they wanted to protect political speech. That is speech from a private citizen regarding the government. That is currently still supposedly the most protected speech there is. Someone running for office is *not* involved with political speech. The candidate is a public figure that is involved with the government from the moment that they start running. As such, they are regulated similarly to a political figure.

    I know it is a contrary to common sense, but speech related to running for a political office made by the candidate is not political speech.
  • doubletalk (Score:2, Interesting)

    by fadethepolice (689344)

    From the article:

    "I don't think anybody here wants to impede the free flow of information over the Internet," Weintraub said. "The question then is, where do you draw the line?"

    This statement makes no sense. I could see regulating the flow of money, but that is obviously not the issue here. The issue is at what point do they impose rules on SPEECH. The money will still flow from the corporations to the political parties, but we will no longer be allowed our little sandbox of freedom.
  • Story time! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 13, 2004 @01:30PM (#10514845)
    A woman in a hot air balloon realized she was
    lost. She lowered her altitude and spotted a man in a
    boat below. She shouted to him, "Excuse me, can you
    help me? I promised a friend I would meet him an hour
    ago, but I don't know where I am."

    The man consulted his portable GPS and replied,
    "You're in a hot air balloon approximately 30 feet
    above a ground elevation of 2346 feet above sea level.
    You are at 31 degrees, 14.97 minutes north latitude
    and 100 degrees, 49.09 minutes west longitude."

    She rolled her eyes and said, "You must be a
    Democrat."

    "I am," replied the man. "How did you know?"

    "Well," answered the balloonist, "everything
    you told me is technically correct, but I have no idea
    what to do with your information, and I'm still lost.
    Frankly, you've not been much help to me."

    The man smiled and responded, "You must be a
    Republican."

    "I am," replied the balloonist. "How did you
    know?"

    "Well," said the man, "you don't know where
    you are or where you're going. You've risen to where
    you are, due to a large quantity of hot air. You made a
    promise that you have no idea how to keep, and you
    expect me to solve your problem. You're in exactly the
    same position you were in before we met but, somehow,
    now it's my fault."
    • by Guppy06 (410832) on Wednesday October 13, 2004 @01:50PM (#10515023)
      "She lowered her altitude and spotted a man in a boat below."

      "You are at 31 degrees, 14.97 minutes north latitude and 100 degrees, 49.09 minutes west longitude."

      And none of them thought it was peculiar that the man was in a boat in the middle of the Texas desert, thust demonstrating the complete ineptitude of both parties.
  • It isn't speech at all.


    It's a file that I have on my computer.


    I told some other people where I keep my file, and I let them come look at if they want.


    If there's too many people looking at my file on my computer, I may pay my friend with a bigger computer to keep my file for me. And if some people want to look at my file, I may send them to my friend, who is keeping my file on his computer.


    So, you see, it isn't speech at all.


    It's property.

    • Well, if it is property then you can expect your file to be taxed for the value that file has at each transaction, and you can expect your ability to share your property to be regulated by the government via the powers invested in it by the commerce clause. Oh yeah, did your file include sufficient access for disabled users, and was it produced according to OSHA safety regulations? You do have the paperwork, right?
    • It isn't speech at all.
      It's a file that I have on my computer.

      When you're done with your sophmoric semantic quibbling, you can try applying the same idiot logic to, say, newsprint. "It's not speech, these are ink marks on a piece of paper." Speech is not an effect of the media used to transmit it, but the intermediation of ideas from one interlocutor to another regardless of medium.

  • by jludwig (691215) * on Wednesday October 13, 2004 @01:34PM (#10514874) Homepage
    Don't blame the FEC, these guys are following orders - this shows how silly the notion of campaign finance reform/regulation really is. Instead of having the desired effect (make the contest more fair, I suppose), you quickly find that people are clever enough to cheat the system. Sinclair's recent "news" documentary about Kerry (http://www.theiowachannel.com/politics/3803572/de tail.html [theiowachannel.com]) *and* Moorse's F911 both fall into this category, both sides are doing it. Either one is really just a long political advertisement.

    Its just like a complicated tax code; people find, exploit and profit off of loopholes and an unneccessarily complicated system. Make the system simple (flat tax for example) and stupid things like this don't happen. Let the candidates take as much money from whoever they want and spend it in any way they please and you'll find these awful "side-effects" of dumb legislation go away. You can't tell people how to spend their money and suggesting that gagging political organizations (or in the Sinclair/Moorse cases passionate individuals) during some artifical timeframe before an election is appropriate is simply unacceptable.

    • I despise bush with every fiber that is "me" and yet I found myself angrily screaming back at the television last night over this democratic party airhead who kept insisting sinclair had no "right" to air this program, on stations they own, without claiming it as some sort of "campaign contribution" (which, of course, would have a value so high as to be illegal).

      Get rid of the money factor. Give'em the ability to raise unlimited funds to buy all the airtime they want. They're all in the back pockets of cor

  • Just a reminder (Score:2, Informative)

    by fontkick (788075)
    "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

    "Abridge (v. t.) To make shorter; to shorten in duration; to lessen; to diminish; to curtail"

    Someone circle the word "abridge" in the dictionary and mail it to Congress.
  • RTFA (Score:5, Informative)

    by OverlordQ (264228) * on Wednesday October 13, 2004 @01:38PM (#10514912) Journal
    U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly in Washington ordered the FEC to rewrite 15 rules, including regulations exempting Internet ads from the 2002 campaign finance law. The law bars outside groups from coordinating television and radio advertisements with candidates.


    The court ruled that political advertisements on the Internet weren't exempt from a 2002 law that required them to be financed with federally regulated funds.


    They're talking about regulating the ads used by the different campaigns and them working with groups like 509's.

    Hardly a "OMG MY RIGHTS" issue.
    • Let's say I really don't like one candidate because I disagree with him on a particular issue. Let's also say that because internet advertising is comparably cheep, I buy a run a banner ads that expresses my view. Under this regulation I am restricted in certain ways from doing just that. So......

      OMG MY RIGHTS ARE BEING TAKEN AWAY!!!!!!

      • Erm . . no they're not.

        The Internet is exempt from a ban on the use of corporate money for radio and TV ads targeting federal candidates close to elections, part of the new campaign finance law that took effect this election cycle.

        Unless you're getting paid by some corporation to put up banner ads then no, you're just jim dandy fine.
        • So let me get this straight, any person (but not corporation) can pay however much money they feel like to have advertising run?

          I don't think that's allowed. If it was you'd have rich politically oriented guys buying up most of the TV time around elections (durring the black out period) and running ads.

          So I'm pretty sure if I tried to run a banner ad on Slashdot the day before the election, I'd get in trouble.

    • They're talking about regulating the ads used by the different campaigns and them working with groups like 509's.

      Hardly a "OMG MY RIGHTS" issue.


      Unless, of course, you happen to support one of those 509's, and would rather contribute to them and finance their speaking for you rather than learning to build your own web site, hosting it and putting up a redundant page.

      In that case, it is an OMG MY RIGHTS situation, because I'm being told that I can't help someone speak for me, even if they can spak lo
  • Another attepted by the unknowing to led what they do not understand. They will pass their laws, they will rattle their chains, they will bang their fist and in the end what will it mean. Zip and shit is what it will mean.

    Look at that past few years of what all the attemps to control the Internet have done. Not much. They have tried to stop music on the net. It is still there just as available as it always was. They have tried to stop the spread of pornographics, legal and illegal, it failed. Porn

  • Just look twords McCain-Finegold Campaign Finance Reform, where they restricted a canidate from running any ads one month before the election. But all these other groups such as the MediaFund, MoveOn.org, VietnamVets, etc. don't have to abide by those rules. So in essence the canidate can't go out and use free speech to promote him/her self (i.e. bash the other guy with attack ads at the time it matters the most). But groups that don't nessisary relay what the campaign beleives can go out and bash the ot
  • I guess that's why Slashdot's been 503 so much lately, it's the FEC regulating the Politics topic.
  • I'm Embarassed (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Doesn't_Comment_Code (692510) on Wednesday October 13, 2004 @01:41PM (#10514950)
    I've already seen ads designed to walk a fine line on campaign finance. They go something like this:

    Candidate B is a bad man! Click here to help us raise money to stop him by donating to Candidate A.

    The message is clearly intended to sway the viewer, but they technically are fund raisers, not advertisements. In other words, campaign laws shouldn't apply to them in the same way they apply to TV or print ads.

    I've seen these come out of both parties and their respective PACs. It is the same argument used to defend Michael Moore. "This is different because we're making money... not spending it."

    I'm embarassed that our politicians and political organizations are so willing to follow the letter rather than the spirit of the law. And I'm sure we'll see many more laws trying to reign in abusers. And we are just as likely to see a lot of new creativity to skirt the laws that are implimented.
    • I'm embarassed that our politicians and political organizations are so willing to follow the letter rather than the spirit of the law. And I'm sure we'll see many more laws trying to reign in abusers. And we are just as likely to see a lot of new creativity to skirt the laws that are implimented.

      What's embarassing is that they need to jump through such hoops. As I pointed out in another comment, we don't have President Steve Forbes. Unless you enact very comprehensive, draconian rules, people will try

  • They'll just put ads on the BBC website and tell the FEC to stick it.
  • Naive (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Red Rocket (473003) on Wednesday October 13, 2004 @01:55PM (#10515053)

    I guess I was being naive...

    What's naive is granting free speech (and all other human rights) to corporations as if they were "persons" and then wondering why the whole system went to hell. We wouldn't need this kind of regulation if only corporations were treated as the legal fiction they are. Allowing corporations to roam our society with all the rights of a person exposes us to ultra-wealthy psychopaths. [thecorporation.com]

    A lot of money buys a lot of "free" speech. Real persons have no chance in hell of competing with corporations on the "free" speech playing field. It's time we recognized reality and revoked these misplaced rights and overturned the fallacy that corporations are persons.

    Remember "No Face" from Spirited Away? Best to keep them out of the bath house.
  • I always thought that freedom of speech originated in part because the framers wanted to protect political speech.

    Well yes, that is what the framers wanted. You don't equate the FCC of 2004 with the framers of the Constitution do you?

  • I've said this before, and I'll say it again

    Money is not Speech
  • Summary is incorrect (Score:2, Informative)

    by gruntled (107194)
    Court ruling only directs FEC to examine online advertisements, not, as the summary claims, speech online. Thus, the FEC has merely been directed to monitor compliance with campaign advertising restrictions currently applicable in meatspace.
  • Active vs. Passive (Score:4, Insightful)

    by maximilln (654768) on Wednesday October 13, 2004 @02:12PM (#10515253) Homepage Journal
    I don't think the FEC should be wasting tax dollars fretting over the internet.

    Television and radio ads are effectively because they are active advertising. The consumer _must_ participate in the advertisement in order to get back to normal programming. The advertisement takes 100% of the media stream. There are no ads for Kerry or Bush playing in the background while Metallica is playing in the foreground.

    Advertising on the internet is much different. Let them spend all they want on internet advertising. Google will love it, Yahoo will love it, MSN will love it... but the consumers? Really I don't think internet advertising has much impact. I'm positive that search engines and launchpad websites can produce hundreds of studies to prove me wrong but their business relies on convincing people to spend money on internet ads. To the regular consumer, however, it's all too easy to ignore banner ads and get to the real content on a page. I have yet to meet anyone who has tried a new product or service due to internet advertising. I've bought things that were reviewed (eg. books) on a network bulletin board, but I've never bought anything from a paid advertisement. Internet advertising is passive advertising because it requires the consumer to willingly participate in the advertisement. If Bush or Kerry want to spend a billion dollars employing web monkeys to write a webpage then that's good for jobs and the economy. Unless they (illegally) hijack my browser, though, I'm still not going to view it.

    So, again, why is the FEC wasting our taxpayer dollars arguing over 15 rules and trying to make them wrap around the internet?
  • by jmorris42 (1458) * <jmorris.beau@org> on Wednesday October 13, 2004 @02:13PM (#10515261)
    Because once we started down the dark path with the first limits on the 1st Amendment in the post Watergate era this sort of mission creep was foretold. Regulating campaign finance IS regulating Free Speech. Democrats refuse to understand and keep proposing more laws when the previous ones fail. Shrub is equally (hell, moreso) culpable this time because he KNEW it was wrong and signed it anyway for coldly political purposes.

    But let me say this. I will never submit to any law regulating my speech, and when the time comes that the Democrats pass a law that does infringe my speech, and it gets upheld, that is the day I use the 2nd Amendment to invoke that most primal right so well expressed in the Declaration of Independence.

    "But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. --Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government."

    • ...and when the time comes that the Democrats pass a law that does infringe my speech, and it gets upheld, that is the day I use the 2nd Amendment to invoke that most primal right so well expressed in the Declaration of Independence.

      Ummm...is that John Ashcroft knocking at your door? Nah, he'll let this one go because you only threatened Democrats.
  • by whoever57 (658626) on Wednesday October 13, 2004 @02:17PM (#10515304) Journal
    So, how is the FCC going to stop people setting up websites on offshore webservers? Even if they might be able to stop US residents and US companies from doing this, they certainly will have a hard time stopping foreigners.
  • by xmas2003 (739875) on Wednesday October 13, 2004 @02:21PM (#10515343) Homepage
    Guess I'll have to check the Web Server Logs to see if anyone surfs to the Hulk for President Site [komar.org] from fcc.gov or usdoj.gov ...
  • Regulation (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hhawk (26580) on Wednesday October 13, 2004 @02:23PM (#10515362) Homepage Journal
    I can see them regulating PAID ads just as they do any other, but in terms of personal expression - chat rooms, blogs, etc. that would be "chilling" and clearly not allowed under any reasonable view of the consitution.

    In the more gray area would be online commerical speach since the courts tend to view commmerical speach rights as being less than those of actual humans.
  • by michaelas (588213) on Wednesday October 13, 2004 @02:38PM (#10515563) Homepage
    There is one big difference that needs to be taken into account. The Internet is an open medium, compared to TV and radio which require a significant investment to get on air. Some guy in his garage can host a website for pennies a day. For a little more, he can even handle a heavy volume of hits. He can also write a blog for free, etc. Let see him produce a TV show. Because of the diversity of opinion on the Internet, it is a whole different beast. With TV and radio a handful of conglomerates own about 80-90% of TV stations, and I don't know about radio, but it consolidates everytime congress eases the ownership rules. This puts a lot of power in to a few hands, either the owners or people that can afford time. Think of it this way. If everyone was a billionaire, we wouldn't need campaign finance reform. It helps level the playing field. The nature of the Internet already levels the paying field, so why regulate it. ...Michael...
  • by TheSync (5291) on Wednesday October 13, 2004 @02:43PM (#10515630) Journal
    I hope this will teach all of you that campaign finance reform is a joke. Everything that has been tried since the Nixon administration has only made it harder for non-incumbents to run for office. You now have to have a lawyer and an accountant on staff to run for any kind of office to avoid getting in trouble with all the laws.

    Now they are going to regulate the Internet. Thanks guys!
  • by Soong (7225) on Wednesday October 13, 2004 @03:55PM (#10516641) Homepage Journal
    It's perfectly natural to have regulations to ensure a just economy; Laws against fraud, slander, libel, etc.

    It's definitely a good thing to keep shadowy monied players from buying an election to keep their political machine churning.

    Now the trick is to do these things without burying the system that is basically good but needs guidance.

    Aside from direct person-to-person verbal (and non-verbal) communication, every form of communication requires an economic transaction to buy pen and paper, buy email or web bandwidth, print flyers or newspapers, etc. Campaign finance laws don't sweat the small stuff, so I don't think I have to worry about how much I spend on my web site (<$100/mo) that happens to express my personal political views and voting recommendations.

    This may also be a case where Freedom trumps Privacy. Privacy means other people don't have to know what you do; Freedom means you're allowed to do what you do even when other people know about it. If we're going to have Freedom of speech, we might have to give up anonymity and admit where the money's coming from and how much it is. What would people think if they knew the money trail for the ad campaign from the Swift Boat Veterans for Bush? Would they be suprised that people X,Y and Z spent $bignum to put that out? Would it affect their appraisal of the message to know who the messenger is?

    A lot of this stuff is already out there, to the credit of the campaign finance rules. I think it just needs to be a little more widespread and a little easier to find.

    [This message paid for by slashdot. I'm Brian Olson and I endorse this message.]

What is wanted is not the will to believe, but the will to find out, which is the exact opposite. -- Bertrand Russell, "Skeptical Essays", 1928

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