FEC Should Let the Internet Remain a Haven for Free Speech

RNLA Advisory Council member Dan Backer cautioned against further regulation of political speech on the Internet in The Hill.  He noted that FEC Democrats are using the allegations of Russian interference in last year's election to call for regulatory changes, but paid political communication on the Internet is already regulated by the FEC:

Broadening Internet regulations is a bureaucrat’s solution in search of a problem. As outlined in the Federal Register, the FEC already requires a disclaimer for any “public communication” that is “placed for a fee on another person’s website.” This includes paid express advocacy — any paid communications “advocating the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate." Whenever an individual, corporation, labor union, or political committee “pays a fee to place a banner, video, or pop-up advertisement” on another’s website, they are engaging in “public communication” that requires a disclaimer.

But an individual's ability to speak and disseminate his or her message for free on the Internet has made it into a bastion of free speech that amplifies individual voices, and the FEC should not destroy it through regulation:

This consideration alone has compelled the FEC to allow the “vast majority of Internet communications” to “remain free from campaign finance regulation.” And our public debates have been better off for it. 

For good reason: Everyone can watch television or listen to the radio, but only those with money can use these mediums to communicate. The shift from receiving information to conveying information was a quantum leap, and the Internet enabled that. Today, we’re all essentially media entities, since we can all disseminate our ideas to the general public. This is a powerfully democratizing force. The FEC’s rulemaking would turn the clock back to the 20th century. 

The Internet must be left largely unregulated to preserve it as a convenient, inexpensive, and easily accessible tool for the robust exercise of free speech. The Internet’s unregulated nature is, at least in part, its charm. Even the FEC has recognized as much, describing the Internet as “a bastion of free political speech, where any individual has access to almost limitless political expression with minimal cost.”

We thank the Republican FEC commissioners and free speech advocates like Mr. Backer for fighting against the FEC Democrats' and the "reform" community's harmful urge to regulate core political speech.