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FEC Regulation of Blogs

July 4th is as good a day as any to review our First Amendment Rights as guaranteed under the Constitution:

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.

Kate Nash has a column in today’s Tribune that addresses this issue in the context of the Federal Election Commission’s proposal of new regulations for bloggers:

The commission, which enforces federal election law, is considering requiring online political ads to wear disclaimers stating who paid for them.

Not a bad concept. Just like on television, on the radio and in newspapers, voters have a right to know who is saying whatever they are saying about a candidate. (Of course, those disclaimers aren’t always as clear as they could be, but that’s another topic.)

However, there is a big difference between the online world and that of the mass media (i.e. television, radio and newspaper). This fundamental difference is the cost barrier to entry. There is none for blogging. Many public libraries provide free online access. Blogging tools like those available at Blogger are provided at no cost. “The press” is now available to every man, woman and child. For every website put forth by a special interest group, there is at least one blog that provides the other side of the story.

A final thought on disclaimers…

When Thomas Paine published “Common Sense” in January 1776, it was done anonymously.