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Thursday, November 10, 2005

Don't Be Fooled - H.R. 4194 is NOT a Blogger Protection Act

There are currently two bills before Congress that advocates claim are intended to protect political speech on the Internet by exempting bloggers from campaign finance regulations.

But the Online Coalition of bloggers Left and Right warns that one of the two - H.R. 4194 - is in fact not intended to protect anybody but the campaign finance bureaucrats and incumbent congressmen.

Here's how Online Coalition summarizes the many problems with H.R. 4194:

* It offers no guidance as to the treatment of group political activity, potentially treating all group websites that discuss federal candidates as political committees.
* It would stifle technological innovation. H.R. 4914 specifically mentions "blogging", but ignores such as already-widely used technologies like podcasting, wikis and peer-to-peer networks, let alone the technologies of tomorrow.
* Its alleged protection to incorporated bloggers offers no real protection. In comments filed before the FEC, supporters of H.R. 4194 have stated explicitly that those websites which endorse, expressly advocate, and urge readers to donate funds to the election of preferred candidates do not qualify for protection under the law. This would force bloggers that speak forcefully about politics to seek legal counsel - a complete disaster.

The genuine article is The Online Freedom of Speech Act, H.R. 1606. Make sure your blog readers and your congressman know all the facts on the differences between H.R. 4194 and H.R. 1606. Your freedom of speech could depend upon their knowing the difference.

Go here for a more complete explanation from Online Coalition. There is also a link there to help you locate your congressman if you don't already know who it is.