You're begging the question. My "solution" is that while there are certainly issues with the way things are now, it's probably the best compromise out there, just as with the US approach to free speech.
And my conclusion follows if you expect "freedom of the press" to be maintained as some sort of principle at all. Unless you're going to forbid the NYT from printing editorials--and deal with situations where the media aren't interested in covering newsworthy stories at all--then you're placing Real Journalists in a privileged position to distribute their political opinions while denying others the right to use their means to do the same.
It's disappointing but unsurprising to see Techdirt and its community unreflectively jumping on the bandwagon here. The logic of the argument here isn't complicated, but it's apparently the elephant in the room.
The entire outrage about campaign contributions is premised on the claim that political money equals votes. There are only two ways that can work: direct bribery, which undoubtedly happens but is a relatively minor influence, and using money to purchase publicity. Therefore, the crucial implicit claim is that political publicity directly manipulates the electorate's votes.
Now I happen to agree wholeheartedly with that claim; I believe that most of the incumbent's advantage is a matter of the mere-exposure effect. However, an honest adherent to that claim has to acknowledge that the issue is not money per se but political publicity.
If that's the case, then the proposed "reforms" boil down to carving out a privileged position for incumbent media companies. CBS and the New York Times will still have massively wide-reaching platforms from which to push their political goals, but companies and individuals whose business happens not to be the mass media will be blocked from straightforward access to modern soapboxes.
Support Mayday if you like, but be honest about what you want: the government's picking who's allowed to reach an audience with political messages.
I was recently picked to do Nielsen ratings, and I figured I'd give it a try as entertainment. When they called me to do the screening survey, the representative specifically told me that a TV tuner card, watching OTA broadcast TV, doesn't count as television if I use a projector or a computer monitor as output, though if I used a monitor marketed as a TV with HDMI input, it would count. I'm amazed advertisers are still willing to accept prices based on these studies.
This certainly is an interesting edge case, but it's not new one. Established law in the US has been that courts can compel production of the key to a safe but not divulging a combination; this is just a logical extension to new sorts of "safes".
Politicians with stupid policies get elected in large part because the media love to cover idiocy because it gets lots of attention. This causes the mere-exposure effect to kick in, where someone gets voted for merely because his name is familiar (which explains most of the incumbent's advantage).
Mike, for the detailed analysis you do in these cases, you tend to trip into the practice of throwing the word "right" around inaccurately. It's important to hold the government (and cloud-yellers) to what the law actually says, and the Constitution does not claim that the government has any rights whatsoever; rights are held by the people, which delegate specific (ha!) powers to the government.
While I'm usually in agreement with both Mike's analyses and critical of most think-of-the-children measures, I fail to see how it's outrageous for parents or guardians to have the authority to access their minor children's online accounts. They have legal responsibility for their children, and they already have analogous authority to read their diaries, listen in on their phone calls, and monitor their computer usage from the client end. In the cases of actual mistreatment, as noted in the article, children can be legally emancipated, and parental rights are terminated.
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