Free speech means a free internet — even if Democrats don’t like it

Free speech means a free internet — even if Democrats don't like it

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) recently held two days of hearings on proposed internet regulations. While the hysterical media has ginned up a new “red scare,” the FEC’s proposals will do nothing to stop bad actors, but will undermine our First Amendment rights to online political speech. The FEC used the hearings, at which I testified , to consider different approaches — some more restrictive than others — to “improve” disclaimers for online political advertising. Yet FEC regulations already require political action committees (PACs) and other online spenders to use disclaimers where they can, or to click through to fully-disclaimed pages if they can’t. PACs are also required to disclose all of their expenditures monthly or quarterly, and file special reports whenever spending more than modestly to support or oppose candidates. Existing regulations are clear and comprehensive. The law isn’t the so-called problem being addressed here, though; it’s all that persnickety speech outside the political establishment. The FEC’s Democrats, most notably Vice Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub, condemn advertising “paid for by Russia or other foreign countries,” urging Congress to “regulate political spending on the internet.” But that’s silly: The law already forbade those bad actors in the first place. Bad actors won’t comply with the law — because they’re bad actors. For the political elites, who can afford to hire campaign finance lawyers and well-paid vendors, the FEC’s proposals will at most be a nuisance as they continue delivering their messages online. Regulating the internet will only overburden everyone else […]

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