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Stifling the www? Online Freedom of Speech Act (H.R. 1606)

Reported by Chrish - March 15, 2006

(Snicker, of course this is not from FOX.)

TOMORROW afternoon, the U.S. House will vote on the Online Freedom of Speech Act (H.R. 1606).

The organization cited below from which I got the alert says: "1606 is needed because federal courts have ordered the Federal Election Commission to regulate "electioneering communications" on the Internet because of the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act (McCain-Feingold). If H.R. 1606 fails to become law, your Web site or blog could be shut down for the 30 days prior to a primary election and the 60 days prior to a general election should you express "electioneering communications." And any political e-mail you send during those times supporting or denouncing a candidate could also be disallowed."

"A new FEC rulemaking to cover the Internet began in March 2005, and the Commission has scheduled a meeting to vote on these new rules on March 16, 2006. Unless Congress acts quickly to prevent it, the FEC will be required to issue a new regulation to cover Internet communications.

Historically, Congress has regulated political speech only where it has the potential to cause corruption or the appearance of the corruption. There has been no demonstration that the growth of the Internet has had a corruptive influence on politics. There is, however, ample evidence that the Internet has had a positive, democratizing effect on our system.

The Internet has had a positive influence on our politics and engaged thousands of people as never before. It has allowed individuals of limited means to become involved in the political process because, unlike other forms of media such as television and radio, there are few barriers to entry. The Internet allows for communication with millions of people for little or no cost. Imposing regulations would stifle this activity.

The Internet achieves through technology what BCRA seeks to achieve by law. It levels the playing field, empowers ordinary citizens, minimizes the influence of wealth and enhances the voice of those of lesser means. Imposition of a regulatory scheme on this medium will stifle this activity and discourage participation, thereby enhancing the

influence of the wealthy and connected, contrary to the stated purpose of our campaign finance laws.

The chilling effect of a regulatory scheme would be exacerbated by its arbitrariness--for example, the FEC trying to determine on a case-by-case basis which bloggers should be considered `news' organizations and be granted a media exemption and be taken out of the realm of regulated organizations, and which should not. This arbitrariness would negatively impact bloggers in particular because their sites often meld news and advocacy.

Instead of constantly drawing arbitrary lines and hard to follow rules for Internet activists to abide by, the FEC should just leave the Internet alone. H.R. 1606 would tell the FEC that it was right the first time--the Internet should be left alone to flourish and not be burdened by regulation.

Those who favor regulation, the so-called `reform community,' believe that Internet speech must be regulated in the same manner as all other speech, lest we create a `loophole' that will allow people to evade BCRA. They are not deterred by the fact that none of the grim scenarios they predict will ensue have been seen in the past four years. The 2004 election was conducted with the rule H.R. 1606 would codify in place, and none of the ill effects predicted were seen.

While there has been no evidence of corruption resulting from the Internet exemption there has been ample evidence of the positive effects of a deregulated Internet. There was 42% growth from 2000 to 2004 in the number of people using the Internet to research candidates' issues positions. "


I must say I'm a bit leary of this and will do more research on it, as the organization (The Liberty Committee) that brought it to a friend's attention who in turn brought it to my attention is made up totally of Republican House members, and it is endorsed by organization that I am not typically aligned with.. However I thought it was worth bringing to light and hope you will contact your Reps as you see fit.

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