Regulating Political Speech Online?
from the bad-ideas dept
Michael S. Malone is trying to bring to light a federal judge's ruling from last year that didn't get very much attention. Apparently, U.S. District Judge, Colleen Kollar-Kotelly (whose name you might recognize from the Microsoft anti-trust suit) ruled that, despite it clearly not being mentioned in the law, the internet should be restricted by the McCain-Feingold Act, effectively regulating political campaigning online. The ruling, basically, was that it wouldn't make sense for the internet to be excluded, since that would defeat the purpose of the law. However, as Malone points out, it basically treats the internet as if it were a broadcast medium, rather than a communications one -- and creates a serious problem for free speech issues. The point he makes is that, since anyone can publish online, the system helps work out the problems itself: "Pick a viewpoint, no matter how nutty, and it will be there on the Web -- and counterbalanced by 20,000 contrary arguments. It is a forum that demands not more regulation, but less; not more oversight, but more sunlight. Not mandated disclosure, but competitive exposure of misbehavior." Every election season, we see increasingly innovative uses of the internet in campaigns to help bring up issues and involve more people in the process. Regulating the internet when it comes to campaigns could effectively kill that ongoing evolution of the tool.