FEC leaves Internet largely free from campaign rules

Blogs, websites and all manner of online writing will continue to be exempt from campaign disclosure rules, the FEC rules. Internet advertising falls under campaign laws.

Almost all online political activity - except advertising - will remain unregulated, the FEC unanimously voted Monday, the Washington Post reports

Perhaps most important, the commission effectively granted media exemptions to bloggers and other activists using the Web to allow them to praise and criticize politicians, just as newspapers can, without fear of federal interference.

The rules "totally exempt individuals who engage in political activity on the Internet from the restrictions of the campaign finance laws. The exemption for individual Internet activity in the final rules is categorical and unqualified," said FEC Chairman Michael E. Toner. The regulation "protects Internet activities by individuals in all forms, including e-mailing, linking, blogging, or hosting a Web site," he said.

Bloggers on both sides of the issue praised the ruling.

Conservative blogger Mike Krempasky wrote: "This is a tremendous win for speech." Liberal blogger Duncan Black, writing under the pseudonym Artios, said: "This could have been an utter disaster, but it appears to have all worked out in the end."

Three public-interest groups that are often critical of the FEC -- Democracy 21, the Campaign Legal Center and the Center for Responsive Politics -- said in a statement that "the new FEC regulation strikes the correct balance in preserving the Internet as an unregulated forum for robust political activity by individuals, while ensuring that the Internet does not become a loophole for unregulated soft money."

Corporate and union computers can be used for political activity by employees and members, "as long as they are not doing so on company time or are not under orders from their employer or union," the Post reports.


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