Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Kennedy and Free Speech

Rep. Mark Kennedy voted to protect free speech.

It's really to bad that more members of Congress didn't get behind this bill.

Kennedy Votes to Protect Free Speech

Washington, D.C. - Congressman Mark Kennedy voted today for the Online Freedom of Speech Act, aimed at protecting bloggers from the heavy hand of federal regulation. This bill recognizes that the online political dialogue enhances public debate, and should be allowed to flourish. New technologies continue to make it easier for Americans to be active in politics. Congressman Kennedy made the following statement upon its failure on the floor:

"I'm horribly disappointed that this important measure failed to pass. This bill was designed to protect the free speech rights of Americans whose only alleged crime is wanting to use the Internet to express their opinions.

"I disagree with the mainstream media elites who seem to think that an unregulated media is dangerous, unless it is them who are being regulated. What is disturbing and dangerous to me, and to the constituents I represent, is the ease with which so many advocate government regulation of speech.

"Bloggers are everyday citizens. They are our neighbors, friends, and coworkers who want to be able to share their ideas without asking permission from a gatekeeper in the mainstream media and certainly not from a government official. They are the historical descendants of Founding Fathers like Thomas Paine and other pamphleteers who contributed enormously to our democracy.

"We are trying to spread a message of hope, opportunity, and freedom around the world. I supported this legislation so that we don't lose the ability to have that message shared among the American people, and I am frankly disappointed that a majority of Members don't see it that way."

Background on the Online Freedom of Speech Act:

* When Congress passed the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act in 2002, it listed several types of public communications (such as mailings and billboards) which the FEC should regulate. The Internet was not included in the list.

* The FEC was directed by law to write several regulations pertaining to the bill, and logically interpreted that public communications rules did not apply to the Internet.

* A federal court struck down that rule earlier this year and instructed the FEC to regulate the Internet. The new rulemaking is currently underway.

* Other rules, such as for official campaign activity, will still apply. Campaigns must report all of their spending, including the use of their staff and production of materials. This is just as true for spending done on the Internet. For instance, when campaign staffers produce a video for the Internet, it is already regulated.

* Regulation would be an enforcement nightmare since the Internet is so immense and diverse. Websites also change quickly, further complicating regulation.

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(Source: Press Release, Rep. Mark Kennedy MN-6, Nov. 2, 2005)

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