Regulation of Blogs and the Internet
Political blogs also come in many varieties; some provide fact-checking or serve as watchdogs on certain issues or candidates. Others provide heated and often controversial commentary, analysis or opinion. Political blogs are relatively new in the political arena, but they have quickly become associated with "buzz"- a terms that is associated with commentary that can alter social behavior or perceptions.
It is generally acknowledge that blogs became a force in the political arena shortly before the 2004 Presidential election. The influence of political blogs grew steadily and by the 2006 mid-term congressional elections, the influence was considered significant. For some observers, the emergence of an unregulated medium, like the political blog, raised an alarm. The influence of wealthy contributors or corporations on political campaigns was highly charged, with many believing that elections were being sold to the highest bidder. The emergence of blogs along with their rising influence raised concerns among those watching the rise of internet advertising. Wealthy contributors were already purchasing lots of air time in traditional media markets and the blogosphere seemed like the next obvious point of infiltration.
The Online Freedom of Speech Act, introduced in the House of Representatives in 2005, signaled the importance that blogs were exerting in the political arena. HR 1606 was introduced in response to the McCain-Feingold Act or Campaign Finance Reform Act. McCain-Feingold was passed in an effort to limit the amount of "soft" money that could be used to finance political campaigns. The other issue brought to light by passage of McCain-Feingold was that of the rise of "issue ads" which were also called "electioneering communications"- which is where political blogs were called into question.
HR 1606 did not pass. The vote in the House was largely along party lines, with Republicans favoring the act and Democrats opposing it. As federal law stands as of January 2007, individuals' contributions used to fund political blogs in the form of advertising, for example, or simply funding the creation of the blogs, are limited.
Supporters of exempting blogs from regulations argue that the Internet is a new way for people to exercise their freedom of speech and should not be inhibited by laws designed to apply to traditional media. One sponsor of the Online Freedom of Speech Act, Rep. Mark Kennedy (R-MN), expressed his disappointment at the bill's failure to pass, arguing that it was intended to protect free speech.
Proponents of HR 1606 argued that blogs are a "positive and democratizing: force within the political system. The right to express political opinions through blogs has been credited with "leveling the playing field" by allowing ordinary citizens and not just the rich and powerful to contribute to the dialog.
On the other side, Rep. Marty Meehan (D-MA) argued campaign finance regulations fall into the same category as child pornography laws and consumer safety regulations - important laws that should not be ignored simply because the Internet is involved.