FEC Regulates the Internet

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.


Yesterday the FEC unanimously approved new regulations that would govern political speech and advertising on the internet. The final rules are less exhaustive than what was originally proposed, and focused on paid political advertisements placed on the internet—campaigns buying such ads will have to adhere to campaign finance laws.

Here are the basic rules:

  • Paid political advertising appearing on someone else’s Web site would have to be reported, regardless of how little or how much it costs. But that responsibility would lie with the candidate, political party or committee backing the ad—not the site accepting the ads.

  • All ads that expressly advocate the election or defeat of a candidate or solicit donations would have to carry disclaimers.

  • Bloggers and other individual commentators wouldn’t have to disclose payments received from candidates, political parties or campaign committees—but those groups would have to report payments made to bloggers.

  • No one except registered political committees would be required to put disclaimers on political e-mailings or Web sites. The e-mail requirement would kick in only if the committee sent out more than 500 substantially similar unsolicited messages at a time.

  • The media exemption enjoyed by traditional news outlets would be extended to “any Internet or electronic publication,” which could include everything from online presences of major media companies to individual bloggers.
  • Any sort of regulations, even seemingly benign ones, will leave the internet vulnerable to greater federal control. However, this particular round of rulings is specific to campaign financing and prevents blogs from being exploited for their potential ad space. Paid political web ads are now subject to the same campaign finance limits as traditional media, which prevents the Internet from becoming what public interest groups refer to as “a loophole for unregulated soft money.”

    We've never been very good at being conservative.

    And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

    This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

    payment methods

    We've never been very good at being conservative.

    And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

    This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

    payment methods

    We Recommend

    Latest

    Sign up for our free newsletter

    Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

    Get our award-winning magazine

    Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

    Subscribe

    Support our journalism

    Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

    Donate