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Thursday, March 03, 2005

You wanna charge me for a hyperlink?

Posted by Tim Tagaris

During the 2004 election cycle, the Internet brought millions of Americans into the political process. For me, it was the first time I ever became actively engaged; until the Net, I simply received "a 'D' for voting."

Knowing that your voice is heard and your small dollar contribution is appreciated has a not-so-surprising way of increasing political efficacy. Walter Lippmann discussed reasons for low levels of efficacy among citizens in “The Phantom Public,” almost eighty years ago. “The private citizen,” Lippmann writes, “has come to feel rather like a deaf spectator in the back row…listening to speeches, uttering opinions, and voting do not, he finds enable him to govern it [his environment]."

Because of the Net, we have a voice. Unfortunately, some on the FEC and in Congress are helping to stifle political expression online. I am not kidding you when I say they want to start charging for links online. Links. If I were to say, "Barbara Boxer is cool," that would be a campaign contribution. That is just the start of it. And you wonder why so many Americans are dissafected with politics. It gets worse, according to FEC Commissioner Bradley Smith:

It's going to be a battle, and if nobody in Congress is willing to stand up and say, "Keep your hands off of this, and we'll change the statute to make it clear," then I think grassroots Internet activity is in danger.

The impact would affect e-mail lists, especially if there's any sense that they're done in coordination with the campaign. If I forward something from the campaign to my personal list of several hundred people, which is a great grassroots activity, that's what we're talking about having to look at.

Were I cynical, I would be the first to charge the politicians are doing everything they can to increase a "sprial of dissafection" that Pinkerton and Weintraub first described in 1998.

They believed that media tactics turned voters off, which contributed to increased cynicism, alienating them from politics and the political process. The result of that alienation is voters making less of an effort to obtain new information from the media which leads to further cynicism, and the cycle continues (Johnson, Hays, & Hays, 1998).

The Internet has changed this. To take that away would be bad. Very very bad. Contact information for the FEC:

Main Telephone Numbers:
Toll-free: 800-424-9530
Local: 202-694-1100
TDD: 202-219-3336

Mailing Address:
Federal Election Commission
999 E Street, NW
Washington, DC 20463

Full slate of contact information HERE. Out of curiosity, what campaign would the FEC bill for linking to sites you disagree with?

Posted at 01:43 PM in Netroots | Technorati


Maybe I am missing something, but this seems like it would be a severe limitation on the first amendment rights of private citizens. I really hope that nothing like this even comes close to happening but if it does it seems to me that there would be a case to be made for challenging the rule in court.

Posted by: JDF [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 3, 2005 03:09 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment