Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Hands off the blogs

The Federal Election Commission yesterday decided to regulate online political advertising, but not the content of political blogs like this one.

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

Unsurprisingly, this was one of those rare issues that united bloggers of all stripes in opposition to any regulation of blogs.

But I don't see how the FEC could have ruled any other way. How does one measure the worth of a blog entry? Not by the money spent to post it; most bloggers work for free. Readership would have to play a part, as well as value judgements about what constitutes support for a given candidate. With millions of blogs that at least occasionally discuss politics, It would have been a nightmare.

Never mind how such a rule would deal with online discussion forums.

if bloggers are paid to support a particular candidate, as happened in South Dakota in the last election, those payments should show up in campaign reports, and the bloggers should have to disclose the payments. But absent such direct involvement, the only real option is to leave the blogosphere alone.

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