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Two items:

  1.  New proposed Texas journalist shield legislation will not protect most bloggers -- instead, it defines "journalist" as:

"Journalist" means a person who, for financial gain or livelihood, is engaged in gathering, compiling, preparing, collecting, photographing, recording, writing, editing, reporting, investigating, processing or publishing news or information in a tangible form that is distributed or intended to be distributed to a group of people by any news medium or through any communication service provider. This includes anyone who supervises or assists the journalist in gathering, preparing, or dissemination of news or information.

  1.  Sshh! for now, but they're trying to regulate the political interwebs again.  Reps. Price (D-NC) and Castle (R-DE) have introduced the "Responsible Campaign Communications Act of 2007" that would apply the "stand by your ad" requirements of McCain Feingold to the start of automated phone calls, but also, okay....:


(a) Communications by Candidates or Authorized Persons- Section 318(d)(1) of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (2 U.S.C. 441d(d)(1)) is amended by adding at the end the following new subparagraph:

`(C) AUDIO AND VIDEO PORTIONS OF COMMUNICATIONS TRANSMITTED THROUGH INTERNET OR ELECTRONIC MAIL- In the case of a communication described in paragraph (1) or (2) of subsection (a) which is transmitted through the Internet or through any form of electronic mail--

`(i) any audio portion of the communication shall meet the requirements applicable under subparagraph (A) to communications transmitted through radio; and

`(ii) any video portion of the communication shall meet the requirements applicable under subparagraph (B) to communications transmitted through television.'.

(b) Communications by Others- Section 318(d)(2) of such Act (2 U.S.C. 441d(d)(2)) is amended by adding at the end the following: `In the case of a communication described in paragraph (3) of subsection (a) which is transmitted through the Internet or through any form of electronic mail, any audio portion of the communication shall meet the requirements applicable under this paragraph to communications transmitted through radio and any video portion of the communication shall meet the requirements applicable under this paragraph to communications transmitted through television.'....


Nothing in this Act or the amendments made by this Act may be construed to require any person who is not required under section 318 of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (as provided under section 110.11 of title 11 of the Code of Federal Regulations) to include a disclaimer on communications made by the person through the Internet to include any disclaimer on any such communications.

I know what you're thinking: Adam, that's completely self-explanatory!  Go home!

Okay, here's what I think it means: currently, campaign finance law on the Internets generally only applies to communications placed for a fee on someone else's site -- i.e., ads.  If a campaign spends money on a blogad, you now see a disclaimer with it.  So, the question is what happens with something like YouTube, where a campaign can distribute a communication online for free.  This bill would force the same "I'm Ned Lamont, and I approve this ad (and so do we!)" disclaimer into all online audio or video ads, regardless of whether a fee is paid to place them.

The question is what else the bill does, between Sections 2(b) and 4, in terms of voluntary activity by bloggers to create videos -- because Section 441d(a)(3) referred to in section 2 states that an advertisement "not authorized by a candidate, an authorized political committee of a candidate, or its agents, shall clearly state the name and permanent street address, telephone number, or World Wide Web address of the person who paid for the communication and state that the communication is not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee."

It may well be that between that and the clear exemption under Section 4, pro-candidate videos you voluntarily place on YouTube are exempt.  The question is whether this is necessary in the first place.  Stay tuned.

Originally posted to Adam B on Thu Feb 15, 2007 at 01:45 PM PST.


On the "Responsible Campaign Communications Act of 2007"

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| 18 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  Disclaimer (7+ / 0-)

    At this point, I am not expressing any opinion on the "Responsible Campaign Communications Act of 2007," and to the extent that you still think I am, it would be my own, and not that of any client, past or present.  Clear?

    •  Question (0+ / 0-)

      Would a possible consequence of failure to require identification of organizations "not authorized by a candidate, an authorized political committee of a candidate, or its agents" be a massive proliferation of the kind of anonymous attack ad that had begun to become so prevalent over the past few election cycles?

      I mean, there's clearly a difference between individuals (or small groups) truly acting independently and massive interest/astroturfing groups, butwithout some form of clear identification, I would fear a massive flood of YouTube-style internet video pieces put together by well-financed "shadowy" organizations.

      Legitimate concern?  Or am I perhaps completely missing the point here?

      •  Hmm. (0+ / 0-)

        I start from the premise that in the absence of regulation, you'd expect to see such nonsense, but if it ends up not happening there's probably a reason.  In other words, if the opportunity was there, why didn't this happen in 2006?

        I can accept the notion that when a candidate, party or PAC releases a video online, even if it's on a free site, then it should put its name on it, even though I'd question what that has to do with campaign finance reform.  The question remains how you'd separate "honest citizens" from "bad groups", as you'd sketching it out.

        •  Could Be a Tough Nut To Crack (0+ / 0-)

          From my layman's perspective, it seems very much like this is a classic "On the one hand ABC, but on the other hand XYZ" situations.  Trying to separate the wheat from the chaff, as it were, especially in the heat of a campaign, would probably be nearly impossible (look at how long it takes the FEC currently to come to determinations regarding election violations).

          As for the question of why we didn't see this have a major impact in 2006, it's probably because the technology was still too new for it to have caught on with the larger, well-financed groups.  This is much the same as how prior to 2004, no one was really focused on internet-based fundraising, and certainly not on the catalytic role that blogs could play in this regard.  But now the cat is out of the bag, so to speak.  I would be quite frankly shocked if we didn't see a lot of this sort of behavior with respect to the 2008 races.

          •  Well . . . (0+ / 0-)

            . . . anyone who didn't understand what YouTube could do, understood it after "macaca".  

            •  And That's My Point (0+ / 0-)

              as to the uptake of this, that is.  The big organizations clearly weren't prepared for the way that YouTube (and its kin) could disseminate information or be used as a marketing tool.  (The same appears to be true for commerce, by the way, where viral marketing strategies involving internet videos are just beginning to take hold.)  But there's little reason to think that these same organizations and moneyed interests will merely sit on their hands for the next 20 months so that only "honest citizens" utilize this valuable tool.  If they don't already have sizable teams working on their strategies to fully incorporate YouTube, they ought to be fired for rank incompetence (they could then hire me as a strategic adviser for a mere fraction of the cost).

              Even better than running some hit piece a couple of times on a cable channel or local TV station, these pieces can easily be picked up by the traditional media as they "report" the controversy.  Similarly, many will also be either praised or damned (depending on one's partisan inclinations) throughout the blogosphere itself.  It's an ever-changing, Brave New World, and if I had to guess, election finance laws and regulations will always end up being one or two steps behind the curve.  But that doesn't necessarily mean that we should give up trying to make the system as clean as possible.

  •  Defining journalist... (0+ / 0-)

    "for financial gain or livelihood"

    That eliminates 98% of the blogosphere - and a lot of freelancers, interns, and others in it for the love of it, too.

    • Visit News Corpse
    • The Internet's Chronicle of Media Decay.

    by KingOneEye on Thu Feb 15, 2007 at 01:58:30 PM PST

    •  It's a tough question (0+ / 0-)

      How does one define a "journalist" for shield law purposes so as not to include, say, a vengeful ex-employee who sets up a website to reveal a company's internal secrets, then wants to refuse to reveal her sources by claiming that the site constitutes "journalism"?

      Or would you not exclude such a person from a shield's protections?

      •  That illustrates the problem with shields (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Adam B, The Maven, boadicea, Bouwerie Boy

        Any attempt to regulate journalism becomes an attempt to regulate both content and intent.

        What law is supposed to tease out the case of a vengeful ex-employee who sets up a website that reveals a company's internal secrets, which include glaring noncompliance with, say, Sarbox or ISO9000?

        The legal environment is fairly hostile to any form of muckraking or investigative reporting as it is—I recall Wal-Mart winning a case against reporters because they lied about who they were to get access (a staple tactic of the genre). What if the vengeful ex-employee gets revenge by doing aggressive but otherwise by-the-book investigative reporting, but whose case rested on documents that were being withheld by the company on the grounds that they were trade secrets?

        There's no way to do this without leaving a great deal of discretion to the judge tasked with untangling it, so in practice the question becomes, how many people do you want to haul before a judge? Specifically, now that the PATRIOT Act makes it so that you can't scrub charges from your record that didn't lead to convictions, how many people do you want to have police files for doing investigations?

        It's a sticky wicket, to be sure.

        Necessary disclaimer: IANAL.

        Gravity is just The Man holding you down. - clonecone

        by oldjohnbrown on Thu Feb 15, 2007 at 02:11:53 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Is a blog (0+ / 0-)

      a news medium or communications service provider?  

      Matt Blunt believes Roe v. Wade should be overturned. Let's overturn him.

      by maryb2004 on Thu Feb 15, 2007 at 02:46:39 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  So if I charge users $.01 to see my photojournals (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      KingOneEye, espresso

      I am legally a journalist. Cool.

  •  Guess Texas bloggers have embarrassed (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    too many legislators lately. They've decided they need to put us in our place.

    Interestingly, Texas bloggers have conducted investigations that were picked up by traditional media, performed in depth legislative analysis, and made informed and passionate editorial comments on a regular basis.

    But heaven forfend we be protected by journalist shields just because we perform many of the same functions.

    Before you win, you have to fight. Come fight along with us at TexasKaos.

    by boadicea on Thu Feb 15, 2007 at 02:01:22 PM PST

  •  I don't see this holding up (0+ / 0-)

    The world today is much more complex than the writers of that legislation admit.

    Consider nonprofit organizations.  Technically, the organizations are nonprofit.  However, many of the people who work for them earn their living writing about the latest government scandal.

    Consider community newspapers and blogs, prepared by volunteer citizen journalists to cover areas that mainstream newspapers don't cover.

    Consider public relations professionals who distribute "news," but are not considered "journalists" by newspaper and television reporters.

    Inevitably, it will collapse from the weight of its own hubris.

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