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Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Congress Eyes Internet Exemption Loophole

The House of Representatives is set to vote tomorrow on H.R. 1606, a bill which would exclude the Internet from the definition of "public communications", a move which would have the practical effect of exempting the Internet from campaign finance laws.

The Internet is no less a forum for convincing and debunking and persuading and opposing than televsion, radio, or print. Allowing wealthy interests to contribute and spend unlimited sums of money on political communications over the Internet could present the same danger to democracy that it does in other forms of media.

Without contribution limits, a corporation could pay for a thousand blogs supporting a candidate with positions favorable to that corporation's interest. The thousand blogs could crosslink to each other, creating an artificial juggernaut of blogs that search engines would pick up to the exclusion of other voices.

Opponents of campaign finance laws actually make the argument that regulating the Internet would harm grassroots activism and political activity. As great as is this irony, the harm to democracy that big money poses is greater. The Internet is a blossoming medium for political voices and expression that often get drowned out by the wealth of powerful interests in other media. As such, it deserves our protection.

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