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Democrats Defeat Online FOS Act 782

Posted by Zonk
from the commentary-costs dept.
not so anonymous writes "The Online Freedom of Speech Act was defeated in the House of Representatives yesterday. The Act would have immunized political bloggers from having to comply with hundreds of pages of FEC rules." From the article: "In an acrimonious debate that broke largely along party lines, more than three-quarters of congressional Democrats voted to oppose the reform bill, which had enjoyed wide support from online activists and Web commentators worried about having to comply with a tangled skein of rules. The vote tally in the House of Representatives, 225 to 182, was not enough to send the Online Freedom of Speech Act to the Senate. Under the rules that House leaders adopted to accelerate the process, a two-thirds supermajority was required."
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Democrats Defeat Online FOS Act

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  • Lovely Omission (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ackthpt (218170) * on Thursday November 03, 2005 @12:52PM (#13942442) Homepage Journal

    Ok, so I'm dusted. I see that the most liberal of parties opposes what is effectively Free Speech and the party which brought us the Patriot Act is advocating the it.

    This means there's some reason other than what this post appears to say 'Hey, Democrats hate free speech!', like something has been attached which allows oil drilling in Yosemite National Park. From TFA:

    The Federal Election Commission is under court order to finalize rules extending a controversial 2002 campaign finance law to the Internet. Unless Congress acts, the final regulations are expected to be announced by the end of the year. (They could cover everything from regulating hyperlinks to politicians' Web sites to forcing disclosure of affiliations with campaigns.)

    Opponents of the reform plan mounted a last-minute effort to derail the bill before the vote on Wednesday evening. Liberal advocacy groups circulated letters warning the measure was too broad and would invite "corrupt" activities online, and The New York Times wrote in an editorial this week that "the Internet would become a free-fire zone without any limits on spending."
    Ah, there's the Why, a loophole for Campaign Finance law.

    The heading Democrats Defeat Online FOS Act and omission of the Why certainly colours this article. Why the omission? It appears the article poster favours websites/blogs which are covert mouthpieces of a particular interest group spouting dubious facts and leaving out highly relevant facts. Slashdot has effectively been trolled. Was this intentional, Zonk?

    When black apears white or pigs appear to have sprouted wings, there's usually politics behind it, that's where Critical Thinking separates the herd. The Fine Print: We're probably not responsible for content, but in any event we are, we'll deny it.

    • Re:Lovely Omission (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gregjmartin (806753)
      of course with the global-ness of the web, isn't it nuts to think that the Us can somehow enforce our laws there? If I really want to, can't I just blog to a uk site and get around all this? So opening the loop hole just formalize what's already the de facto law?
      • Re:Lovely Omission (Score:2, Insightful)

        by ackthpt (218170) *
        of course with the global-ness of the web, isn't it nuts to think that the Us can somehow enforce our laws there? If I really want to, can't I just blog to a uk site and get around all this? So opening the loop hole just formalize what's already the de facto law?

        Oh, no doubt about it. You could have your site with .tv tld and most people wouldn't even assotiate it with Tuvalu and you could put whatever you like on it and host it in China or Cuba or Venezuela.

        • Re:Lovely Omission (Score:3, Informative)

          by CaptCovert (868609)
          I know that it's still a cottage industry in many ways, but I'm surprised that web hosting companies in the US aren't up in arms about this. To eliminate Free Speech on the web would be enforcable against US companies, and could possibly send some out of business (SpeakEasy comes to mind).
    • by the_skywise (189793) on Thursday November 03, 2005 @12:57PM (#13942477)
      Sites like the Daily Kos can now be subject to campaign finance laws. Which means, essentially, their speech can be regulated during election seasons.
      • What are you talking about? The final Rules haven't been promulgated yet. This bill would have shaped the upcoming rules, not changed any existing rules. (Note: Rules are different from Laws/Statutes).
      • by ROU Nuisance Value (253171) on Thursday November 03, 2005 @01:03PM (#13942540) Homepage
        And Daily KOS supported the bill's passage. [dailykos.com] The actual story is *slightly* more complicated than the /. headline would suggest.
        • Indeed as you point out bloggers on both sides of the fence and even the middle were all for the passage of this bill.

          Which makes it even more rediculous the Democrats by and large sunk it! Take a look at the list of people voting against, hardly any were Republicans.

          This bill being killed was all about the people not in power disliking the freedom blogs had to say what they wished, the freedom of blogs on thier own side be damned. Perhaps the Republicans would have acted the same in the same position, bu
      • Actually, it controls their money flow: they can't be paid by certain sources to blog politically.

        Then again, the court has decided that spending money is a form of speech, which is the basis of restrictions on campaign finance laws, so perhaps we're really saying the same thing.
      • Sites like the Daily Kos can now be subject to campaign finance laws. Which means, essentially, their speech can be regulated during election seasons.

        Under campaign finance laws they would only be required to divulge sources of funding.

        Even that could be well hidden, say, a voting machine vendor who heavily favors a certain presidential candidate could take out a lot of lucrative ad-space on a site, so long as the views expressed on the site coincide with those of the company.

        *wink* *wink* *nudge* *nudg

    • Re:Lovely Omission (Score:3, Insightful)

      by eln (21727)
      It's pretty disturbing that such an obviously slanted article summary was posted here without the editors even bothering to check the facts. The whole summary basically says "Democrats hate Free Speech." I've come to expect dupes, glaring ommissions, and outright falsehoods from Slashdot, but up until now it had resisted posting blatantly partisan rhetoric.

      The linked article appears to be factual and fair, but the article synopsis certainly isn't.
      • Re:Lovely Omission (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 03, 2005 @01:04PM (#13942543)
        Well, most of the time Slashdot does have a political slant. It's just that this articles slant is not like the rest of them, and is slanted in a different direciton.
        • Re:Lovely Omission (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Politburo (640618) on Thursday November 03, 2005 @01:15PM (#13942643)
          Everything has a slant. There's no such thing as "unbiased".
          • by griffjon (14945)
            They even say that they're fair and balanced.

            Fox wouldn't LIE to me, would it??
            • Yes, not even Fox? (Score:3, Insightful)

              by bluGill (862)

              Many on the far right would claim that fox's slogan is in fact a play on the rest of media claiming it is fair and balanced, while in fact biased to the left. (Witness CBS releasing and standing by fake documents in the last election)

              These are the same people who will call Fox mid left, and everyone else extreme left. That most of Europe would consider the US media mid right is not important to them.

        • Re:Lovely Omission (Score:3, Informative)

          by _Sharp'r_ (649297)
          The bill (One of the shortest you'll see) says:

          Paragraph (22) of section 301 of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (2 U.S.C. 431(22)) is amended by adding at the end the following new sentence: `Such term shall not include communications over the Internet.'.

          The existing law section 22 is:

          (22) Public communication. The term 'public communication' means a communication by means of any broadcast, cable, or satellite communication, newspaper, magazine, outdoor advertising facility, mass mailing, or telep
      • Re:Lovely Omission (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        I submitted the article, and I titled it "Free Speech Rights Taken Away By Politicians". My synopsis was fairly short: "The Online Freedom of Speech Act was defeated in the House of Representatives yesterday. The Act would have immunized political bloggers from having to comply with hundreds of pages of FCC rules." The rest was added by the editors, including the title.
      • Re:Lovely Omission (Score:5, Informative)

        by timeOday (582209) on Thursday November 03, 2005 @01:30PM (#13942820)
        Well, the Democrats did defeat the bill. About the best the editors could have done is put the title of the bill in scare-quotes.

        This is how it always works. It's called a poison pill [wikipedia.org], and both sides do it. You put together a basically good-sounding bill with some riders which are either pork or serve special interest groups. Then if it doesn't pass, you say "Look! The other side is against national security / eductation / freedom of speech / whatever."

        Besides, the fact is the campaign finance law does regulate speech. It limits parties' freedom to "speak" (e.g. buy advertising) for a candiate. Now, I happen to be in favor of this particular restriction of speech because I think it serves a greater good in preserving democracy (including free speech) in the long run... but you have to realize a lot of people are against the campaign finance laws and see them as an unwarranted limitation on free speech.

        • Re:Lovely Omission (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Wellspring (111524) on Thursday November 03, 2005 @02:28PM (#13943588)
          Excellent point. I appreciate your honesty about this, because there's a lot of noise out there that tries to obscure the core issue.

          For the rest of you, if you're in favor of regulations on free speech, then just come out and say so. Explain your reasoning, talk about extenuating circumstances, just like timeOday has done. Stop pretending that this isn't a limitation on free speech.

          The Supreme Court has struck down numerous campaign finance laws over first amendment issues (Buckley vs US, anyone?). Former house majority leader (Democrat) Dick Gephardt responded by suggesting that the First Amendment be changed to allow campaign finance limits. The current SCOTUS has ruled that campaign finance IS a limitation on free speech, but that extenuating circumstances (making things appear less corrupt) justifies it.

          For my part, I'm opposed to any attempt by do-gooder meddlers to limit free speech just because they think that paid advertising == mind control. Inevitably, this is an attempt to control and limit debate and free discussion. The FEC has ruled that blogs will be regulated and controlled by the campaign finance laws, and the defeat of this bill (to stop the menace of banner ads and popups) reaffirms that this is the Law of the Land.

          If you're a Democrat, do the decent thing and be embarrassed. Your party isn't right all the time, any more than Libertarians or Republicans are. Admit that your side got this one wrong, contribute to the EFF [eff.org], and go to local party meetings and tell them that as a loyal democrat you're astonished that you'd see normally smart good people doing this.

          I'm a Republican, but I try to have the intellectual honesty to admit when my party has it wrong-- which we often are. You're doing your party a service by keeping them honest.
      • Re:Lovely Omission (Score:5, Interesting)

        by RobotRunAmok (595286) on Thursday November 03, 2005 @01:35PM (#13942877)
        D00d, Slashdot article summaries, particularly in the Politics and YRO sections, are slanted and biased ALL THE TIME. You just don't notice it cuz they're biased in the direction you clearly favor.

        It's pretty disturbing

        So see a shrink, and be sure to let us know how that works out for you. I think it's pretty AMAZING that this story got through with such a reverse slant in play. Is /. merely going for the pageviews this will engender? Is small-town-video-game-reviewer-turned-overnight-ma jor-site-front-page-editor Zonk just asleep at the console? Or is it something more... interesting? (There is no user registered as "not so anonymous" -- what up with dat?)
      • It's pretty disturbing that such an obviously slanted article summary was posted here without the editors even bothering to check the facts.

        Yes. It's always very disturbing that Slashdot article summaries contain clear political slants. At least, it's disturbing when the slant is biased against whatever political cults I happen to agree with. When it's slanted in their favor, it's just good journalism.

      • Re:Lovely Omission (Score:5, Informative)

        by john82 (68332) on Thursday November 03, 2005 @02:02PM (#13943252)
        I've come to expect dupes, glaring ommissions, and outright falsehoods from Slashdot, but up until now it had resisted posting blatantly partisan rhetoric.

        You've got to be kidding. Slashdot has been blatantly partisan for years. Because it was leaning in a direction you agree with you obviously either missed it or ignored it.

        So when a similar light-on-the-facts, misleading headline article appears to say something equally heinous about Republicans, that's okay. But if it happens to Democrats that constitutes a conspiracy?

        Staying more on topic, I'd like to know why ANYONE in Congress is allowed to attach a rider that doesn't have a thing to do with the original bill. Congress would have to change their rules to prevent it, but both major parties apparently are addicted to this sort of nonsense.
    • Thanks for clearing this up. The Why was my very first question - obviously bills in Congress are massive things with many facets, and opposition would obviously be related to something not in the article above. The Why was an important inclusion in this post, and I share your surprise that /. didn't amend it.
    • fta:
      "I'm horribly disappointed that this important measure failed to pass," said Rep. Mark Kennedy, R-Minn. "This bill was designed to protect the free-speech rights of Americans whose only alleged crime is wanting to use the Internet to express their opinions."

      is my understanding of u.s. politics so backwards? i would have expected the party breakdown to be 180degrees opoistite this...

      can someone explain?

      • Re:mirror world? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Thursday November 03, 2005 @01:18PM (#13942684) Homepage Journal
        i would have expected the party breakdown to be 180degrees opoistite this...

        can someone explain?

        Sure. In a nutshell, you've been lied to. I would never assert that the Republican party has always vote pro-Freedom (yeah, we wrote the Patriot Act. Sorry about that.), but censorship has often been a Democratic pastime. Remember, the DMCA was signed by a Democrat president, and the PMRC [wikipedia.org] was a pet project of Tipper Gore.

        And yet, to hear liberal groups tell it, it's always the Evil Republicans (tm) who want to silence everyone. The truth is far more complex, but how often do you hear of both parties' sins?

        P.S. I don't know which party Jack Thompson affiliates with. I won't blame either party for that nut.

        • Re:mirror world? (Score:5, Informative)

          by Enry (630) <enryNO@SPAMwayga.net> on Thursday November 03, 2005 @01:34PM (#13942869) Journal
          and the PMRC was a pet project of Tipper Gore

          from TFWA:

          They included Tipper Gore (wife of Senator and later Vice President Al Gore); Susan Baker, wife of Treasury Secretary James Baker; and Nancy Thurmond, wife of Senator Strom Thurmond.


          So 1 democrat + 2 republicans = democratic project?

          • Re:mirror world? (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Just Some Guy (3352)
            So 1 democrat + 2 republicans = democratic project?

            It does when the one Democrat was on every TV and radio show to explain how censoring kids' music would make them happier, healthier, and safer. I'm pretty sure she invented the phrase "think of the children!".

            Both sides of the aisle were in on this one, but Tipper was definitely the starring attraction.

        • Re:mirror world? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by rk (6314) on Thursday November 03, 2005 @01:49PM (#13943083) Journal

          Remember, the DMCA was signed by a Democrat president

          And passed by a Republican majority congress. The sins of both parties are legion, and whenever someone comes around to challenge the status quo, left or right, they band together and squash the threat.

          It is so funny to me to listen to the Democratic Party's newly found fondness of federalism, where for 40 years prior they treated support of states' rights and federalism as mere code words for supporting racism and segregation, and out of touch with core American values. Now that they're outnumbered at the federal level, they have all kinds of respect for checks and balances and fiscal responsibility.

      • Disclaimer: I am mostly Republican.

        The issue is that the bill would have allowed almost unlimited political spending on the Internet. The Republicans almost always have WAY more money than the Democrats, but how they can spend it is sharply constrained by campaign finance laws. The Democrats do not want to allow the Republicans to 'buy' the election by spending vast amounts of money on unregulated messages over the Internet.

        Rep: "Pass this bill" so we can pay people to blog for us with no oversight.
        D
        • Re:mirror world? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Liam Slider (908600) on Thursday November 03, 2005 @02:12PM (#13943362)
          And the Republicans AND Democrats have way more money than every other political party...where's the laws bringing that into balance? Oh wait, we third party people don't even argue about that... We just want elections that are fair where when we get on the ballot we don't get dragged into local courts by the big parties with them arguing we should be taken off because we have no chance to win...because we aren't them... where our Presidential candidates, if they are on enough ballots to (in theory) get enough electoral votes to win, can participate in Presidential debates...where the ballot boxes aren't stuffed and voting machines aren't rigged (both big parties guilty of this)... In other words, we want Free and Democratic elections in the United States (well....everyone sems to want them for Iraq, or this or that third world piss poor country, only fair we should want them here.) That would be election reform. Who gives a shit about "campaign finance" at a stage where everything else is broken?
    • Re:Lovely Omission (Score:3, Insightful)

      by magarity (164372)
      Ah, there's the Why, a loophole for Campaign Finance law

      Which still makes it odd for Democrats to oppose it as far as I can tell. In my state the best funded 527 groups are liberal groups.

      And this open a completely different can of worms: Campaign spending "reforms" are, IMO, unconstitutional nonsense. There's nothing in the freedom of speech clause that says its only free speech up to a certain artificially imposed spending limit. Things like yelling "fire" in a crowded theatre and lib
    • by PCM2 (4486)
      I see that the most liberal of parties opposes what is effectively Free Speech and the party which brought us the Patriot Act is advocating the it.
      Umm... most liberal? You are talking about the Democratic Party in the United States, right? Next you'll be telling me that the Republicans are practicing conservative fiscal policy... you know, small government, less spending, etc...
      • by ErikTheRed (162431) on Thursday November 03, 2005 @01:40PM (#13942958) Homepage
        Umm... most liberal? You are talking about the Democratic Party in the United States, right? Next you'll be telling me that the Republicans are practicing conservative fiscal policy... you know, small government, less spending, etc...
        Thank you. It always floors me when I look at how emotional people get over one party or the other. If people would pay more attention to their actions than their rhetoric (especially over a period of time greater than a decade), they'd find they're disturbingly similar.

        Myself, I vote for politicians (while holding my nose), not for parties.
    • Re:Lovely Omission (Score:5, Informative)

      by goodmanj (234846) on Thursday November 03, 2005 @01:35PM (#13942879)
      In Slashdot, always read TFA, not just the comments on it. In politics, always read TFB (The F'ing Bill). What it says, and what people *say* it says, are often two different things.

      The bill doesn't say "bloggers can post what they like." It says "all Internet communications are immune from federal election rules." That includes not just bloggers, but major media corporations and advertisers.

      The community here knows that there's nothing magical about the Internet. Why should CNN or Fox be restricted in what they show on cable TV, but be unrestricted in streaming live online video to me over the same damned cable?

      TFB needs to be more precise. But amendments weren't allowed, so it was voted down.
      • Re:Lovely Omission (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Just Some Guy (3352)
        Why should CNN or Fox be restricted in what they show on cable TV, but be unrestricted in streaming live online video to me over the same damned cable?

        Good point. All restrictions on the abilities of the press to deliver information - regardless of medium - are patently unconstitutional and should be removed immediately.

  • FEC....not the FCC (Score:5, Informative)

    by cdrudge (68377) * on Thursday November 03, 2005 @12:52PM (#13942446) Homepage
    The Act would have immunized political bloggers from having to comply with hundreds of pages of FCC rules.
    FCC - Federal Communications Commission
    FEC - Federal Election Commission

    FCC tells you what you can say on the airwaves. FEC tells you what a politician can say (during elections).

    Learn the difference.
  • by Kelson (129150) * on Thursday November 03, 2005 @12:53PM (#13942449) Homepage Journal

    From TFA, here's the full text of the bill:

    Paragraph (22) of section 301 of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (2 U.S.C. 431(22)) is amended by adding at the end the following new sentence: `Such term shall not include communications over the Internet.'.

    That means that, if it had passed, anything posted on the Internet would be exempt from campaign finance laws. That means advertisements, editorials, etc. That means it would be perfectly legal for a political party to use campaign donations to hire people to write political blogs that they might not otherwise have written on their own time, initiative, and opinions. That means hiring people to comment on message boards and other people's blogs. In other words, it means astroturfing.

    You may think this is a good thing, in which case it ought to be extended to the print and real worlds -- just remove all those limitations in the first place. But if you think we should be limiting the effect that money has on election campaigns, what makes the Internet special?

    As it stands, anyone blogging on their own time already has free speech on the internet. So let's not cast this as a blogbing issue.

    • by Steve B (42864) on Thursday November 03, 2005 @01:06PM (#13942563)
      But if you think we should be limiting the effect that money has on election campaigns, what makes the Internet special?

      The fact that it is uniquely easy for J. Random Citizen to disseminate his own message of rebuttal.

      • Which should not be affected by this anyway. What WOULD cause J. Random Citizen problems is if he was being paid by a political candidate or related entities. Free speech is what it is. Paid speech isn't. Unless I'm missing something.
    • I agree with most of what you just said, even though I don't really mind this "astroturfing."

      The only possible objection I would have to removing the limitations on print media, etc. is that there are certain kids and styles of media that actively engage the consumer, and others that passively wait to be engaged by the consumer.

      When you're watching television, and a political advertisement comes on, you did not opt into receiving that communication. You did not seek it out, you did not take the initiative
      • by TGK (262438)
        I think that you've touched on something really important here without even realizing it.

        When you're watching television, and a political advertisement comes on, you did not opt into receiving that communication. You did not seek it out, you did not take the initiative to view it. The same is true of direct mail-- it came into your mailbox, and so you're going to at least give it a cursory look.

        What makes those different than the so called "astroturfing" that is mentioned in the grandparent? Quite simply,
    • I'm going to do something that doesn't happen alot on /. - I'm going to say that I don't really understand how this affects me. I have a crappy little website where I do the typical rant and rave thing on any subject that I fancy to. During election times I like to call all of the canidates idiots and such and point out their shortcomings. You know, real mature stuff.

      How does this affect me? Will I be told to stop if some political group decides that I have been funded to say such things? Will someone attem
  • by byteCoder (205266) * on Thursday November 03, 2005 @12:53PM (#13942451) Homepage
    Here is the past Slashdot discussion [slashdot.org] at the bill's introduction. The bill text for HR 1606 can be found here [loc.gov]. The bill simply says:
    Paragraph (22) of section 301 of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (2 U.S.C. 431(22)) is amended by adding at the end the following new sentence: `Such term shall not include communications over the Internet.'.
    The law being modified can be found on page 11 (PDF page 25) of this (warning: large PDF) document [fec.gov], which simply defines "public communication" as:
    (22) Public communication. The term 'public communication' means a communication by means of any broadcast, cable, or satellite communication, newspaper, magazine, outdoor advertising facility, mass mailing, or telephone bank to the general public, or any other form of general public political advertising.
  • What a joke (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Politburo (640618) on Thursday November 03, 2005 @12:55PM (#13942464)
    This is a joke. The Republicans control the House. In the House, the majority does what it wants. While the bill was brought up under a rule that required 2/3rds majority, the Republican leadership could right this very second bring it up as a normal bill that requires only a simple majority.

    It is impossible for the Democrats to stop anything in the House.
    • Re:What a joke (Score:3, Interesting)

      by gsfprez (27403) *
      The Rs also control the senate, but there are 44 Dems in the Senate...

      and while every single Democrat is against the war today - how was it that the authority to go to war went 99 to nothing in the senate?

      I find it funny that on the War and the Patriot Act, the Dems VOTED lock-step with the Republicans, while a mere 2 years later, are violently opposed to the very things that they voted for?

      Both parties suck in so many ways, its frightening.

      Adults Vote Libertarian.
      • Re:What a joke (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Politburo (640618)
        FYI - you're not going to win people to your cause by calling them children. Good luck, though!

        A lot has come out since the vote on the authorization for Iraq. You already know it's not as simple an issue as you make it out to be, so I won't explain it again for you. As for the PATRIOT Act, there was no time to read the bill due to the way it was proposed. Days after 9/11, Democrats weren't about to vote against a bill that claimed to provide tools for fighting terrorism.
  • While I'm as big a proponent of free speech as the next guy, I have to say this will likely have little to no impact on actual internet speech. There won't be a "chilling effect" as some would have you believe. In the end there just isn't the budget or the manpower to enforce the same FCC political advertising guidelines online as are enforced in major boradcast media. and the big topper is that the first time Big Brother tries to enforce this we will quickly see it in front of 9 of the US's top justices whom will in all likelyhood vote to remove FCC regulation from the whole realm of internet publishing.... Anyone who tells you otherwise is just a chickenlittle...
    • The above should say FEC not FCC.. whoopsy!
    • In the end there just isn't the budget or the manpower to enforce the same FCC political advertising guidelines online as are enforced in major boradcast media.

      All it takes is one example. They don't have to go after every blog. Just a couple of them. A couple of high profile prosecutions will make political blogging a different sort of beast. FACE didn't require that every abortion protestor be prosecuted. A few prosecutions and everyone with half a brain and something to lose will conform.

      LK
  • by Dark Paladin (116525) * <jhummel@NosPam.johnhummel.net> on Thursday November 03, 2005 @12:56PM (#13942470) Homepage
    This issue is really very complex, and do make it a simple "up or down" measure I think betrays the very issue of free speech that we're dealing with.

    According to the Supreme Court, campaign finance laws do not violate the 1st Amendment. The argument basically goes like this:

    You can't restrict campaign finance, because that limits free speech.

    SCOTUS: Yes, you can, because then it gives all powers of speech into the hands of the few who can massively pay for it, and restricts "pure" free speech - but if you limit the amount each person/group is able to contribute, then it levels the playing field for speech. It's the equivalent to saying that the guy who can buy a 100 foot tall speaker is just exercising his free speech by drowning everybody else out.


    So, now we're talking about the Internet. And here's the problem:

    If someone has a political blog, that is probably free speech.

    If someone pays a large number of people to have political blogs to support their view, is that still free speech, or is that diluting free speech?

    What's the difference between paying for an advertisement on television saying that "Candidate so-and-so likes to have sex with black people and make bastard babies, don't vote for him!" and a company buying up advertisement on the Internet saying the same thing?

    So, while I don't think that either the Dems or the Repubs have noble interests at heart, this is an interesting challenge. Do you just say "The Internet doesn't have to worry about campaign finance", and give the possibility of the delution of "pure" free speech as discussed by the Supreme Court and previous campaign finance laws, or do you try and put some language saying "If you get money based on your political views, you have to reveal who did it and how much and can only accept X amount".

    I'd rather see a law like the "truth in advertising" - if you're getting money for writing the blog/hosting an ad, you have to state on your web site where that comes from and how much. This way people who are just running ads can say "Google adsense", and those getting it from campaign groups can disclosed if they are a hired gun or not. Granted, there is more to the language than this, but this is just my thumbnail sketch, so if you need to split hairs, at least come up with your own complete language to cover the complexity of the issue :).

    It's an interesting question, and one that *should* be debated for a good and long time. If you notice, this was the failure not of a majority but of a "mega-majority" of 2/3 to pass the bill. Some further debate and clarification of the language should make it palatable to that majority in the end, which I believe is perfectly reasonable.

    Of course, this is just my opinion - I could be wrong.
  • by Profane MuthaFucka (574406) * <busheatskok@gmail.com> on Thursday November 03, 2005 @01:00PM (#13942511) Homepage Journal
    Daily Kos has an article on this with a bit more information. This one actually goes into reasons why the Dems voted againt it. Daily Kos disagrees with the Dem's reasons, and was in favor of extending the free nature of blogs.

    http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2005/11/3/112540 /088 [dailykos.com]

    Note that the act can still be brought up for a vote under normal rules and passed. The defeat was under special rules intended to speed the process.
  • Why? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by 31415926535897 (702314) on Thursday November 03, 2005 @01:02PM (#13942526) Journal
    Why does there have to be an Online Freedom of Speech Act? Why does there have to be anything other than the First Amendment? I am tired of how much our "free speech" has become regulated since the founding of this country.

    The other thing that bothers me is the two party political system. Why wouldn't democrats want to protect our speech online? It seems all they're interested in is opposing the republicans these days (I used to be a republican, but I don't think they stand for conservatism anymore, so I'm libertarian/independent/non-incumbant now).

    We need politicians that will bring us back to the freedoms our country enjoyed two hundred years ago, but everyone is interested in towing the party line--it seems even the voters. If you are of voting age, and in the US, please consider third-party candidates in the '06 congressional elections. I want to be part of a larger group than 0.5% of the population.
  • by inverselimit (900794) on Thursday November 03, 2005 @01:06PM (#13942572)
    Remember who signed the DMCA--Clinton. I think free speech in the slashdot, eff sense is really quite orthogonal to party lines.
  • What is the threshold to be covered by this?

    Could you, as an individual blogger, endorse a candidate or discuss political issues on your blog? Or are you enjoined from making any political statements on your blog because that is now included as part of someone's election campaign?

    How much of one's blog would have to apply to other things in order to not run afoul of this?

    I'm a little mystefied as the article is unclear. On the one hand, I can see that they don't want massive campaigns by parties which cir
  • by RingDev (879105) on Thursday November 03, 2005 @01:14PM (#13942635) Homepage Journal
    This is not an encrouchment on your right to free speech. This just applies existing election campaign laws to internet communication.

    You can still post your political party bashing blog. Now you just can't get paid insane amounts of money to do so with out the backing party acknowledging it.

    Nothing to do with your rights. Everything to do with campaign finances.

    -Rick
  • ...were you paid to submit this here?
  • Aaaargh! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Slartibartfast (3395) * <(ken) (at) (jots.org)> on Thursday November 03, 2005 @01:14PM (#13942642) Homepage Journal
    Once upon a time, I was a Democrat -- and damn proud of it. Democrats have a wonderful and storied history of going to bat for the little guy. Be it gender, race, disability, religion... you name it, the Democrats were willing to support those unfairly accused or biased against.

    And then came the 90's.

    Bill Clinton still did many good things -- but one of the worst things he did (IMNSHO) was to cause the Democratic party to lose its identity. He frequently took Republican initiatives, rubbed off the serial numbers, and called it "Good." Then came Gore & Kerry -- both of whose campaign platforms could be summed up as "I'm not George W. Bush."

    Then we have stuff like the DMCA and the Sonny Bono act, both of which should have been squashed by traditional Democrats... and instead are supported by them.

    I'm disgusted. Bring back a JFK. Bring back a Roosevelt! Hell -- even Carter! He made some really dumb mistakes, but nobody doubts his sincere willingness to try to do what he felt was best -- as his continued works with Habitat for Humanity show.

    Instead, we get Ted (The One That Wouldn't Go Away) Kennedy, we get Tom (I'm a waste of space and air) Daschle, we get antagonists, footdraggers and backpeddalers.

    God, I hope McCain runs next time. I'll vote for him before most any Democratic contender I can think of. Perhaps that's why I'm now a registered independent. *sigh*
  • by DrJimbo (594231) * on Thursday November 03, 2005 @01:19PM (#13942695)
    This bill had nothing whatsoever to do with protecting free speech. Independent bloggers already have free speech and this amendment would not have enhanced their free speech.

    The amendment would have created a loophole in campaign finance reform and allowed unlimited political spending on the web. The amendment would actually suppress free speech to the extent that independent views could be drowned out with politically financed astro-turfing.

    In the fine tradition of many other laws and bills that have surfaced over the past five years, the intent of this amendment was the exact opposite of that implied by its title. If Orwell were alive, he'd be rolling in his grave.

    Slashdot: faux infotainment for nerds.

    • by pi_rules (123171) * on Thursday November 03, 2005 @01:52PM (#13943123)
      If Orwell were alive, he'd be rolling in his grave.
      If Orwell were alive, he wouldn't be in a grave.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 03, 2005 @01:20PM (#13942703)
    Ultimately, the Democratic position would probably limit free speech among bloggers to a certain extent. The problem has to deal with the "Schenck v. United States", where a person has a limited amount of time to make a decision based on statements that he/she has no ability to verify (because of that time).

    New campaign laws seek to limit the type/amout/method of information being disseminated in the weeks directly before election. Let me give an example...

    Lets say a large group of bloggers decides they want to impact an election. 2 days before an election one anonymously blogs that Candidate X was accused of date rape in college and that the accuser is afraid to come forward. The day before the election, all of the other bloggers pick up the story and start talking about it in huge numbers. Then, the day of the election, every voter has to make a decision of risking to vote for a date rapist. I know this sounds silly, but it was a very effective strategy against a college student body president campaign at my alma mater only a few years back. A similar strategy was employed against a Republican candidate for house in 1996 in NC (although it wasnt bloggers, it was a mass mailing).

    While there is no precedent against bloggers, it seems silly - I think - to give them a complete immunity when it is very possible (if not inevitable) that such an immunity would create a haven of this kind of attack.

    The most important speech that must be protected is the vote.
  • Dems save /. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Puhase (911920) on Thursday November 03, 2005 @01:21PM (#13942712)
    Can you even imagine having the RNC pay 5-10 people a day to create a bunch of accounts on here to post on political articles of relevance? You may be thinking that no one would care enough to do it, but with the kind of money involved, they could hire 50-1000's to do it on as many American news sites/blogs as they wanted. All of that aside, its nigh impossible to enforce broad internet legislation that is not copyright oriented (so the RIAA pays for its enforcement).
  • by greg_barton (5551) <greg_barton AT yahoo DOT com> on Thursday November 03, 2005 @01:25PM (#13942758) Homepage Journal
    Consider this scenerio:

    Some PAC raises one million dollars from unlimited, unreported donations.
    They use the money to pay 1000 bloggers to promote their issue.
    They don't need to report that these bloggers work for them, or how much they get paid.

    Rinse. Repeat.

    Is this free speech?
    • Yes this is free speech. What the $@#! do you think free speech is? A PAC represents people and corporations that are organized by people. Their speech counts too. So who cares how much money is spent. Right now, people with money can hire attorneys and law specialists that can find loopholes in these obscure and confusing laws. These laws only affect people with limited resources. You are fooling yourself if you think otherwise. These laws are to allow incumbents to be reelected time after time. Y
    • I can buy 1 million blogs. But that doesn't mean anyone will read them.

      That is entirely unlike TV advertising where my purchase of all ads means a specific number of viewers WILL be watching those ads.

      People seek out what to read on the internet. They are told what they will watch on TV. That is why campaign finance reforms for the internet are utterly ridiculous and harmful.

      The blocking of this bill is all about Democrats feeling that conservative blogs are, by and large, handing their ass to them on a
  • by jordandeamattson (261036) <jordandm@@@gmail...com> on Thursday November 03, 2005 @01:36PM (#13942897) Homepage
    Hi All -

    The reality is that neither party respects our liberties (i.e., fully embracing both the enumerated and unenumerated, and retained rights as outlined in the 10th Amendment of the Constitution). They tell us to look at the US Constitution and ask "where are you given that right?", rather than asking the question Madison would have, which is, "where did you give up that right?"

    Both political parties have a shared monopoly on power (I think we called this a duopoly in Econ 101), and will resist any attempt to take away this power. Yes, they will jostle for advantage over one another, but when this duopoly is threatened they will unite against it (see, opposition to any redistricting reform by the mainstreams of both the Republican and Democratic parties in California).

    Looking back at the 2004 election, the mainstream of the Democratic party was hit right between the eyes by the power of the Internet and Blogs, as demonstrated by the insurgent campaign of Howard Dean. The look at this and wonder what it might have been

    Couple this with that there are still a few Republicans who value liberty (as understood through the lens of enumerated and unenumerated rights), over staying in power, and you see why this got fair broader support among them.

    This isn't the first time something like this happened. Rewind back to the election of 1968, and TV was the breakout media. Eugene McCarthy used it effectively in New Hampshire to force Johnson from the primary process. Nixon and Wallace (running one of the most effective 3rd party campaigns since Teddy Roosevelt (even if I despise what he represented), used it to great benefit.

    So, in the Congress following this election what happened? An incredible level of restrictions on TV in political campaigns were put into place, which effectively put access to TV in the hands of those in power.

    Like McCain-Feingold (and I say this with the greatest respect for both of these gentleman), giving the FEC oversight of Bloggers will only diminish the level of free speech and dialog in the public square. The internet and blogs dramatically reduced the barriers to entry to commentators, because as A.J. Liebling noted, "Freedom of the press is limited to those who own one." All of a sudden, a whole lot of people now could own the equivalent of a printing press. And the result is as you would expect (applying Sturgeon's Law that 90% of everything is crap), with a lot of nonsenses and garbage spewing forth, but a few gems mixed up in the overall stream.

    If I had my magic legislative wand, and could make one change to improve the political process in this country, I would wave it and do away with our FEC as it exists and our various restrictions on political spending and embracing Justice Brandise maxim, "sunlight is the best disinfectant; electric light the best policeman", I would require the following:

    1. That within 24 hours of any political donation being made, that this fact be posted for all to see and search on the Internet. Any legislation in which this party has an interest will also be identified. If this donation was made by a PAC, then the membership of that PAC must be clearly visible (i.e. I can follow the money).

    2. For scheduled meetings, 24 hours in advance, and for unscheduled meetings within 24 hours, any meeting with a lobbyist (defined as someone educating on an issue or requesting legislative action) will be disclosed for all to search on the Internet. The topic of this conversation will be disclosed along with any legislation discussed or related to the topic of conversation. The source of funding for this lobbyist, organization, or individual, must be made transparent, all the way back up the chain. If Lobbyist A was hired by Organization X who received funding from PACS 1, 2, and 3, who in turned received funding from PACS 4, 5, and 6, I should be able to follow it all the way back to the companies and individuals making the donations.

    3. The calendar of all members of the Legislative and Executive branches, along with their staff members, will be made available and search-able on the Internet. Common, unique identifiers will be used to enable cross referencing.

    Yours,

    Jordan
  • by StressGuy (472374) on Thursday November 03, 2005 @01:40PM (#13942959)
    Bear with me, this connects

    Not to long ago, an idea was presented to link voter registration with getting your driver's license. The underlying idea, reportedly, was that, by making it easier for the average adult to register to vote, there would be a greater population of registered American voters thus making elections more reflective of "the will of the people".

    Seems like a good idea really, but the debates on C-SPAN went a little differently

    The Republicans were not happy and saying that this was just a ruse to get a disproportionate number of Democrats registered to vote. The implication is kind of interesting. Apparantly, Republicans (and likely Democrats) were of the opinion that persons of the GOP were more likely than Democrats to register without the assistance of the "motor-voter" legislation - at least that was my interpretation.

    With the present situation, the implication seems to be that Republicans have more cash reserves than Democrats and, by making blogs not susceptible to campaign fund contribution limits, they can more easily use that advantage.

    So, both sides seek to exploit a "hidden" advantage in a particular legislation. It's like the old saying, for every endeavor there is a "good reason" and the "real reason".

    and the games go on

  • by RayBender (525745) on Thursday November 03, 2005 @02:26PM (#13943573) Homepage
    Last time I checked the Dems were in the minority in the House. Which means that the Republicans are the ones who set the rules - and if they had wanted it to pass badly enough, they could have easly arranged for it to only need a simple majority. They certainly aren't above changing rules to suit their needs in the Senate (e.g. the nuclear option). So this ain't the Dems fault.

    That aside, it's not clear to me that the rules are such a bad thing. They basically say that if a political party spends campaign money on the Web then it has to be reported - just as the case if said party spends money on TV ads. This is perfectly reasonable. Despite what some party-funded astroturfers would have you believe, this does NOT restrict J. Random Blogger from posting whatever he wants. It just says that if he gets money from the RNC, the RNC has to report it.

    • The Dems clearly have a party-wide almost universal mandate to regulate political speech on the internet, where as the Republicans tend to not favor government regulation of political speech on the internet, but there are enough Republicans on the other side of the issue that it didn't pass.

      So basicly, on this specific issue - Democrats = Hardcore Facists ... Republics = spineless weenies that enable Facism. That isn't to say that there aren't other issues were the Republicans are the hardcore facists, and
  • Bloggers... (Score:3, Informative)

    by psykocrime (61037) <mindcrime.cpphacker@co@uk> on Thursday November 03, 2005 @03:17PM (#13944218) Homepage Journal
    Bloggers (and everybody else) are already exempt from dealing with those hundreds of pages of crap, because that crap has no authority in the first place. The First Amendment to the Constitution guarantees the right to free speech... and even if it didn't, government has no authority other than what comes from consent of the governed; so anybody who wants my simply choose to not allow the government to regulate their speech.

    Repeat after me: Government has NO intrinsic authority or dominion over anybody; We The People are the ultimate and final source of ALL political power and authority... the government has ONLY what authority we grant it; and what is granted may be taken back at any time. Sovereign individuals not belong to, and are not subjects of, the United States government... they answer to us, not the other way around.
  • by scjnsn (701305) on Thursday November 03, 2005 @03:40PM (#13944483)
    Oh.. now the liberal and emotional readers of Slashdot will have to figure out a way to pretend that Democrats really do protect free speech. The way I see it though, Dems have been foaming at the mouth since the advent of talk radio and blogging because the mainstream media can no longer spread liberal tripe unchecked. If they could do it, dems would ban talk radio and blogging altogether.

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