Friday, March 11, 2005

Regulating Bloggers

Two big cases going on around regulating bloggers. The first has to do with whether or not blogging is covered by campaign finance laws. In particular, since contributions to political campaigns are monitored, regulated, and tallied, blogs supporting or attacking a political party should fall under whatever regulations McCain-Feingold cooked up since their articles may be construed as a contribution.

The second is Apple suing Thinksecret for the names of the Apple employees that leaked trade secrets to the publication.

Firstly, it is pretty clear that blogs that behave as a clearinghouse for information supporting a particular candidate are essentially PACs and should be treated and regulated as such. My own take on politics and money is weird and quixotic -- I think the entire government should be put up for auction and there should be a very strict definitions and enforcement for the "takings" clause in the Fifth amendment. A far more natural and sympathetic position is to believe that money corrupts the political process and the two ought to be kept as far apart as possible. Since labor and money are close substitutes, this also means that volunteer advocacy--the sort done by bloggers and cabals financed by rich foreign speculators--should be regulated the same way as cash donations, no matter how unworkable that may end up being. I beleive that pretty much all campaign finance reform is powered by this animus.

The second is that it's not clear that the journalistic privilege of protecting one's sources should be extended to anyone. (I don't know how strong this protection is for recognized journalists). I like the ThinkSecret case because it's more about trade secrets than anything actually life threatening, and hopefully that means the resulting decisions will be narrow and rational. Life works best when freedom is matched with consequences, and in the online punditry world right now that link is very weak indeed.


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