Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Internet Regulation

So, blogs have done what Napster could not--introduce regulation to the Internet. It's worth reading this entire interview of FEC Commissioner Brad Smith on the regulation of speech on the Internet. Some key quotes:
Politics is a dirty business. Now politicians don't like being criticized. People who lose in political battles don't like to admit that they lost because maybe their ideas weren't good enough or they weren't persuasive enough, or people just don't agree with them. They would like to say, well, those guys must have an unfair advantage that must be regulated. That's the way that the political system works here and we have now set up the presumption that when things come up that people are unhappy about, government should regulate them.

I go back to a First Amendment perspective, that the First Amendment was there for us to keep government out of this. Now we are past the stage in which we can say that the courts will strike down all campaign finance regulation. But we really need to ask ourselves: is there not one area of American political life that can be unregulated? Is it absolutely required to regulate every area? And if there is one area that could be unregulated, one would think it might be the Internet, given that it's one area where the little guy -- the average citizen -- really can get in there and compete with the big, well-financed interests.

So we are going to say to those folks, well, if you had the power to own a press outlet you are okay and your website is probably going to be okay as well because you are a newspaper or a radio station or what have you. But we're going to say to the pajama-clad blogger in his basement that he doesn't get the press exemption? It seems to me that's exactly the person who we want to be encouraging to be more involved in politics, the person who should get the exemption there.

Some people will say, well, if you give the press exemption to all these Internet sites, what would stop corporations from putting up a website to take advantage of the press exemption? To which the answer is, what stops the corporation now from buying a news station or newspaper?

We are. And again, oddly, with the type of regulation in which the more money you have the more free you will be to participate. A wealthy guy like George Soros, who can spend his millions, or Rupert Murdoch who can own a network, will have heightened influence. Your average small business doesn't have that possibility. They can, however, go onto the Internet. But now we are going to say, "No, you can't take it on the Internet either." Systematically we are working again exactly backwards.
Read the whole thing.


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