On Tuesday, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) released two important rulings that answer with a very clear "No" the question of whether bloggers who support or attack a political candidate are subject to campaign finance regulations. Although there was much controversy in 2005 and into 2006 about possible regulation of political speech on the Internet, in Spring 2006, the FEC issued regulations that provided strong protection for bloggers and individual political activists. The two rulings yesterday are the first to apply the rules to bloggers -- and appropriately, the FEC found that the bloggers were not covered by the campaign finance rules.
The FEC used two different methods to reach its conclusions. First, in a challenge to the DailyKos political blog, the FEC determined
that DailyKos was covered by the "news media exemption" that protects offline news and commentary sources. In the second challenge, the FEC decided
that an individual blogger was protected because any payments he made to operate his blog would be covered by an exemption for "uncompensated Internet activities" and thus would not be treated as covered "expenditures" under the regulations. One or both of these exemptions will cover and protect most blogs. For a more detailed discussion of the rules, see CDT's Net Democracy Guide
These rulings are good news for political speech online. But the fact that two blogs were hauled before the FEC to defend themselves against meritless challenges is bad news.
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