Monday, March 14, 2005

Keep online political discussion free, say Congressmen

Congressional officials and internet commentators are, for once, in agreement as they urge the Federal Election Commission to accord blogs and "political Web sites that serve as focal points for political discussion" the same protection as other media outlets. The FEC is trying to determine if and how to regulate political websites.

It does not appear likely that the FEC will decide to regulate websites as "political organizations," but this poses a potentially dangerous precedent. The problem of course is defining what can be considered a political website. Once the door is opened to regulate large forums such as that and, smaller sites may well fall under the same restrictions, including satire sites. Virtually all general focus satire sites make political commentary at one point or another, and many satire sites include forums or permit comments on stories. It is not that the FEC or other agencies see websites as posing a particular threat; the problem seems to be that many are still grappling with how to categorize online commentary and websites. Satirists, who may already be more vulnerable to charges of slander and/or copyright infringement than more "serious" sites, will want to keep an eye on how this issue develops.
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