Friday, May 26, 2006

Once more into the breech

(Updated below)

Yesterday I celebrated our victory in the net neutrality war, but said "it ain't over 'till it's over, and a power grab like this is never really over."

The Whack-a-Mole that is the battle to protect basic Internet freedoms has a new front, y'all.
The Federal Election Commission ruled in March that virtually all Internet communication is exempt from federal campaign laws as long as it is not coordinated with political parties or candidates, and is not paid advertising. Some worry about financial loopholes in a political Wild West.

Some lawmakers are concerned these sites could become conduits for anonymous soft money that the McCain-Feingold reforms have banned from political parties, which was the issue in the FEC decision.

Rep. Tom Allen, a Maine Democrat, co-sponsored legislation in March that would bring political Web sites under campaign finance rules if they spend $5,000 or more on their operations. He said he would watch how blogs factor into the 2006 races under the FEC rules before deciding whether to press the issue.

"The challenge has been, how do you balance the fact that the Internet has evolved very fast . . . and how do you maintain as much freedom as you can without undermining campaign finance laws?" Allen said.
It seems to me that the way net neutrality has played out over the last month is an elegant refutation of Congressman Allen's argument. The Big Telcos spent a lot of money astroturfing the issue -- ads for their misleading website were everywhere. The pro-neutrality side was largely a true grass roots effort. (If there was money being spent on speech in favor of preserving neutrality, I'd like to know why I didn't see any of it.) The results show why the blogosphere doesn't fit the money = influence broadcast model. My guess is that fact is going to make those who like the old system even more determined to break the new one.

I have no idea yet how serious a threat this bill is. But we need to make sure it stays on the radar.

Once more into the breech dear friends, once more.

Update: Kos makes the same point about The Scary:
Incidentally, this hilarious attempt at astroturfing is exactly the sort of thing that Carol Darr and the "reformers" thought would be so, so SCARY if the government didn't begin regulating blogs. Remember the "Haliblog"? That all-powerful blog that Haliburton would use to -- gasp! -- try to influence the political process?

This is what that Haliblog would look like in practice. Pathetic and ineffective. A magnet for ridicule.

2 Comments:

Blogger vermontraccoon said...

"Meet the new blog...same as the old blog...."

8:29 AM  
Blogger Dr. Bloor said...

Boy, for a bunch of fringe losers who know nothing and have absolutely no influence beyond the walls of our respective basements, they sure do spend a lot of energy trying to squash us.

8:57 AM  

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