Here We Go Again: FEC Toys with Limiting Free Speech on the Internet

July 31st, 2015 6:04 PM

Here we go again – the FEC has launched another attack on free speech.

As Paul Bedard reported in the Washington Examiner on July 30, FEC Chairman Ann Ravel suggested it’s time to produce "thoughtful policy" targeting Internet political activity. 

In a recent speech hosted by the Brennan Center for Justice, the New York City Campaign Finance Board, and the Committee for Economic Development, Ravel put forward her ideas in this area within the larger context of campaign finance law. Specifically, in a question posed to her about this subject, she brought up the possibility of Washington regulating new media outlets.

This would be done, according to Ravel, under the auspices of monitoring campaign contributions that fund political speech on the Internet: 

Question to Ravel: So what appears to be left of campaign finance regulation applies to traditional media outlets and broadcast outlets, so what is the reach of, can we just have an overview of the reach of the FEC is in terms of private organizations and new media outlets like Google, Facebook, the like, and also is there concern that it's unlikely, but say, Google or Facebook completely impartial regulations about propriety or something that could have a disparate impact on the political arena and silence certain political voices and emphasize others and what could the FEC do to keep the political arena fair and is the FEC sort of in conversation with these organizations.

Ravel. It's a complicated question because clearly there is no prohibition and and it would be under the purview of the FEC to look at some of the issues that arise in new media and the impact of new media, in particular with respect to disclosure and ensuring that there is no corporate contributions, for example excessive contributions or contributions to a particular candidates for example. But I'm saying that with a little bit of carefulness because we have had some issues arise relating to campaigns on the internet and i myself wrote a statement that I thought was fairly innocuous at the time saying that it would be important for us to talk to technologists, talk to others in the community, and come up with thoughtful policy about the Internet and other technological advances that are being utilized for essentially campaign finance purposes. And I was, I should say vilified, and it was said by one of my fellow commissioners that I was trying to censor the internet and as a result there was a barrage of really angry, threatening misogynist responses to me about it and suffice it to say nothing has happened.

But as the Media Research Center's Free Speech Alliance has noted, this is not the first time Ravel, other members of the FEC, and the Obama administration have tried to regulate Internet speech. Earlier this year, you may recall, President Obama advocated for "community ownership" of broadband — a collectivist, Big Government idea.  On top of that we have the FCC’s approval of "net neutrality" via a secret regulatory order that imposes sweeping new Internet regulations.

If Ms. Ravel's slew of regulations is ultimately allowed to proceed, the Internet will no longer be the bastion of free expression and liberty that it was always been meant to be.

Attempts to police Internet political speech hamper innovation, decrease access to information necessary for a free society, and trample fundamental constitutional freedoms.  Regulating free speech on the Internet is radically anti-freedom.  It’s a shame that the Left is insidiously attacking Internet freedom from yet another angle.