Congress about to limit political speech of bloggers?

Congress about to limit political speech of bloggers?

posted at 3:35 pm on May 19, 2010 by Ed Morrissey
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The same sloppy legislative writing that created so many unintended consequences in ObamaCare also plagues the DISCLOSE Act, the effort in Congress to tighten spending rules in the wake of the Citizens United decision — and that’s the generous take on the situation.  Reason’s Bradley Smith and Jeff Patch warn that the perhaps-unintended consequences of legislative language will allow the FEC to regulate political speech online.  The fact that media entities like the New York Times have specific exemptions built into the bill makes the intent, or lack thereof, rather murky:

Last week, a congressional hearing exposed an effort to give another agency—the Federal Election Commission—unprecedented power to regulate political speech online. At a House Administration Committee hearing last Tuesday, Patton Boggs attorney William McGinley explained that the sloppy statutory language in the “DISCLOSE Act” would extend the FEC’s control over broadcast communications to all “covered communications,” including the blogosphere.

The DISCLOSE Act’s purpose, according to Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chair Chris Van Hollen and other “reformers,” is simply to require disclosure of corporate and union political speech after the Supreme Court’s January decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission held that the government could not ban political expenditures by companies, nonprofit groups, and labor unions.

The bill, however, would radically redefine how the FEC regulates political commentary. A section of the DISCLOSE Act would exempt traditional media outlets from coordination regulations, but the exemption does not include bloggers, only “a communication appearing in a news story, commentary, or editorial distributed through the facilities of any broadcasting station, newspaper, magazine or other periodical publication…”

In Citizens United, the Supreme Court explicitly rejected disparate treatment of media corporations and other corporations (including nonprofit groups) in campaign finance law. “Differential treatment of media corporations and other corporations cannot be squared with the First Amendment,” Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority.

No legitimate justification exists for excluding media corporations from regulations on political speech applicable to other corporations, unless the goal is to gain the support of editorial boards funded by the New York Times Co.

The response to this criticism has been both predictable and instructive.  Instead of actually discussing how Reason got the argument wrong in its initial reporting on the subject, a Public Citizen lobbyist (which supports the legislation) called it a death-panel argument.  Another group attempted to defend Congress by assuring us that the FEC would “most likely … stand by the 2006 Internet rules” and not investigate political bloggers.

Most likely? Color me comforted.  If the Democrats in Congress wanted to ensure that the FEC would not investigate political speech by bloggers, they would have written their exemptions to include bloggers instead of just traditional media outlets.  The purposeful lack of exemption for bloggers looks ominous indeed — and could be used to harass smaller, unfunded bloggers out of the realm of political debate.

Even if bloggers were included in the exemption, why should the law discriminate between two similar corporations producing similar intellectual property simply on the basis of product when it comes to free speech?   As Reason points out, the Supreme Court stated that such discrimination violates the First Amendment, and probably the 14th as well. What about NBC, owned (at the moment) by GE, which produces a myriad of products and services unrelated to speech.  Should their media subsidiaries get that exemption, and if so, why?  Surely NBC has a much more obvious incentive to bolster GE and avoid reporting on its problems, and the politics that impact them, than a blog has in backing a candidate or a bill in Congress.

This isn’t about “good government” or clean elections.  It’s an attempt by Congress to step around the First Amendment and regulate political speech that threatens incumbents, just as McCain-Feingold attempted.

Obama ‘Internet czar’ linked to ‘Net neutrality’ effort

Obama ‘Internet czar’ linked to ‘Net neutrality’ effort

May 7th, 2010

WorldNetDaily

 Susan Crawford Obama’s Internet Czar

President Obama’s “Internet czar,” Susan P. Crawford, is tied to a Marxist-run liberal media think tank that advocates government intervention in the Internet, charges a new book released this week.

“The Manchurian President: Barack Obama’s Ties to Communists, Socialists and other Anti-American Extremists” officially was released Monday.

The new title from WND senior reporter and WABC Radio host Aaron Klein skyrocketed to No. 1 on the non-fiction list at Amazon.com and is now No. 4 on the overall best-seller list.

With nearly 900 citations, the book bills itself as the most exhaustive investigation ever performed into Obama’s political background and radical ties. Klein’s co-author is historian and researcher Brenda J. Elliott.

The book seeks to expose an extremist coalition of communists, socialists and other radicals working both inside and outside the administration to draft and advance current White House policy goals.

Read More:

FCC Chair Pitches Restraint In Net Neutrality Obama invades the Internet

FCC Chair Pitches Restraint In Net Neutrality

Julius Genachowski’s “Third Way” aims for moderate regulation of broadband to protect consumers while encouraging investment and innovation by Internet providers.

By W. David Gardner,  InformationWeek
<!– –>May 6, 2010
URL: http://www.informationweek.com/story/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=224700985

Federal Communications Commission chairman Julius Genachowski revealed his “Third Way” to attempt to solve the Net neutrality issue that has been dogging Internet regulation negotiations for weeks. Genachowski’s plan generally calls for regulation of Web transmission by Internet service providers, but would renounce some requirements on carriers, such as rules that they would have to share lines with competitors.

In a statement Thursday, the FCC chairman said he supported a “restrained approach” to broadband Net neutrality regulations, “one carefully balanced to unleash investment and innovation while also protecting and empowering consumers.”

Genachowski’s approach is likely to be criticized by major carriers like AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon Communications, which want as little regulation as possible. However, firms like Google and Skype that rely on unfettered access to broadband are likely to support Genachowski.

The FCC chairman was clearly trying to pick his way through a complex minefield of regulations and arguments, but his “Third Way” is likely to be praised, challenged, and discussed from a variety of quarters. To start, however, Genachowski is certain to see his approach approved by his two Democratic colleagues on the FCC, commissioners Michael Copps and Mignon Clyburn, giving him a three-to-two endorsement over the two Republican commissioners.

While much of the issue is mired in arcane regulatory jargon, the results of the latest chapter in Net neutrality are likely to influence a wide sweep of Americans and measures ranging from delivery of broadband in rural areas to encouraging new investment and competition in broadband services.

Genachowski had been examining the issue since April, when a U.S. federal appeals court ruled that the FCC couldn’t sanction Comcast for blocking Bit Torrent from transmitting traffic over the Internet. Genachowski asked FCC general counsel Austin Schlick for legal guidance and Schlick suggested the “Third Way” approach.

Genachowski also appears to have received important backing from Senator John D. Rockefeller and Congressman Henry Waxman, both Democrats, before he announced his Third Way statement Thursday

Schlick reviewed proposals, including one to keep Title I authority to oversee broadband as it generally now is or to reclassify broadband as a telecommunications service. As currently defined, broadband is viewed as an information service and the FCC has little oversight over it. The carriers generally support keeping the Title I classification, while Google, Skype, and public interest groups wanted broadband to come under Title II.

“I have serious reservations about both of these approaches,” said Genachowski, adding that Schlick found the third way: “a legal anchor that gives the Commission only the modest authority it needs to foster a world-leading broadband infrastructure for all Americans while definitely avoiding the negative consequences of a full reclassification and broad application of Title II.”

Genachowski’s Third Way approach will be open for public comment, which is expected to be vigorous on both sides of the issue.