FEC Regulates the Internet


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.”

    DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

    Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

    It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

    We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

    We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

    It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

    Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

    Signed by Clara Jeffery

    Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

    We Recommend

    Latest

    Sign up for our newsletters

    Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight 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

    Share your feedback: We’re planning to launch a new version of the comments section. Help us test it.