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US Federal Protection for Political Bloggers

The Blogging Journalist brought my attention to a CNET article, “Political Bloggers May Get Federal Protection” you should consider reading if you are pushing the freedom of speech issues or tackling political issues on your blog. The impact of this legislation might spread farther, so be warned and get involved:

Bloggers would be largely immunized from hundreds of pages of confusing federal regulations dealing with election laws, according to a bill approved by a House of Representatives panel on Thursday…

…which would amend federal campaign finance laws to give Internet publishers many of the same freedoms that newspapers and magazines currently enjoy.

“We don’t expect bloggers to check with a federal agency before they go online,” said House Administration Committee Chairman Vernon Ehlers, a Michigan Republican, referring to the Federal Election Commission. “They shouldn’t have to read FEC advisory opinions (or have) to worry about running afoul of federal election laws.”

The FEC is under court order to finalize rules to extend a controversial 2002 campaign finance law to the Internet. Unless Congress acts, the final regulations could cover everything from regulating hyperlinks to politicians’ Web sites to forcing disclosure of affiliations with campaigns.

Opponents of Internet reform have warned that the measure would invite “corrupt” activities to take place online, such as cozy relationships between bloggers and political candidates that were not disclosed. The New York Times wrote in an editorial in November that “the Internet would become a free-fire zone without any limits on spending.”

“Bloggers should be treated no different from talk radio,” said Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald, a California Democrat. “Talk radio hosts have protections under the First Amendment. While I may disagree with their positions on the issues of the day, I will nonetheless fight for their right to speak their mind.”

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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen

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