Is the US “cracking down on bloggers,” like China?

A blogger makes an intresting comparison between China’s new policy of registering all bloggers and site managers with the controversial proposal from the FEC to regulate blogs that receive campaign contributions.

[H]ere’s the clincher: the U.S. Federal Elections Commission is proposing campaign finance restrictions for blogs with political content. The official Blogger blog,, says the rules would affect bloggers in three ways: mandatory disclaimers, registration as a political committee for team blogs, and filing of campaign expenditure reports. But you don’t see major headlines like “U.S. authorities declare war on blogs,” do you?

Sorry to have to disagree. First, if you google “Bloggers + FEC” you’ll see that there have indeed been plenty of stories in the major media on the issue. None says the US is “declaring war on blogs” because it wouldn’t be true. The US is imposing possibly unfair regulations on blogs that would force them to comply with campaign finance laws, and that’s at the heart of it. There is nothing about what bloggers can and cannot say. I don’t see a crackdown on US bloggers. A lot of bloggers are calling this a huge threat, but it can’t be seen in the same light as China’s Web censorship.

In China, blogs are often deleted, and bloggers who write the wrong things about those touchy subjects like TSM and FLG can disappear into the night. I’m not in favor of what the FEC is trying to do. But it has nothing to do with censorship or scare tactics, just whether the Internet should be regulated like other media when it comes to campaign money.

The Discussion: 8 Comments

ok, look at it this way: in both cases, free speech is being threatened.

granted, the penalties for running afoul of new regulations are entirely different, but you can’t say with a straight face that the fec ruling would not have a chilling effect on political blogging.

i’ve no significant insight to add to the fec issue, but just want to point out what seems to me an obvious irony in regard to the media’s portrayal of chinese and u.s. blogospheres.

June 9, 2005 @ 10:10 pm | Comment

I agree that when faced with a mountain of regulations to consult, many would be tempted not to put political content online. However, I think this is completely different than the China example. For the one thing, this will affect ALL people in ALL parties. It is not a measure to dissuade dissenting voices from discussing certain “sensitive” topics. Those who are in compliance with all the rules and regulations can still say whatever they want to say.

Personally, I can see the need for some regulation when it comes to campaigns and blogging. However, don’t forget that blogging is still a new phenomenon. You can’t expect the government to come up with appropriate regulations overnight. I think the important thing is that nobody is being targeted in particular.

June 10, 2005 @ 5:34 am | Comment

but you can’t say with a straight face that the fec ruling would not have a chilling effect on political blogging.

It would? The vast, vast majority of political blogs don’t take money from candidates or parties. You can write whatever you want, so long as you’re not being sponsored.

June 10, 2005 @ 9:47 am | Comment

In the US, campaign finance regulations are extermely detailed and require strict strict adherence. The purpose of such regulations, such as disclosure of just a handful of dollars donated to a political campaign, is to insure greater transparency and fair politics. It is extremely important to find out how political campaigns are being run, which parties are involved, what possible agendas are being pursued, whether any illicit activities are occuring the background, corruption, etc. Such transparency is extremely important in democracies where campaigns often require huge amounts of capital.

I see no “chilling” effect regarding inclusion of blogs in such regulations. Blogs which receive money from political organizations or which donate to such, must simply disclose their funding sources. They are not penalized for whomever they donate to/receive funds from, and their freedom of speech is hardly hampered (one can still blog whatever message one so chooses, no one is shutting off or censoring your blog, no one is forcing you to accept political money). What I see here is an overreaction to an aspect of American political life already omnipresent but hardly understood.

June 10, 2005 @ 10:43 am | Comment

I’ve been amazed at the noise level bloggers on the left and right are making about this. It won’t have a chilling effect on anyone as far as I can tell, except those bloggers making lots of money for political campaigs. They will be able to say whether they want with zero censorship, but there may be some red tape involved, just as there is in every other aspect of American life where money is changing hands.

June 10, 2005 @ 10:53 am | Comment

hey, i’m not pretending to be an expert on the proposed fec rules, but i figure the guys over at the center for democracy and technology are. together with the institute of politics, technology, and the internet, they created this site concerning the fec proposal:

reading the site, they make some good points about how the fec rules would have a chilling effect on online political speech.

June 10, 2005 @ 11:50 am | Comment

Panda, I don’t mean to gang up on you. I really like your site and I respect your opinion. I just cringe when I see the US compared to China when I don’t think the situations are parallel. As I said in my post, the Fec proposal may be bad, but it’s not a declaration of war along the lines of China’s declaration.

June 10, 2005 @ 11:59 am | Comment

Richard, as a Federal Election Commisioner says, under most of the envisioned regulatory regimes, freedom to blog will be most protected for monied interests, whether corporate, PAC, or any other type of campaining/political group. Most negatively impacted would be small group ventures.

So no Richard, I’m not exactly happy with this Administration on much. I’m down on them for the budget (cut spending!), the Drug War, their stance towards the 1st, 4th, 9th, 10th and other Amendment rights, and while in favor of the Iraqi adventure, I do not think they pulled it off well at all, either its justification to the public or its actual execution.and I think that No Child Left Behind was a travesty (the only way that that can happen is if no child can get ahead, natch).

And I’m sadly not convinced that either a Gore or Kerry administration would have been much better, nor substantially different along most of the policy axes I care about (ending the current prohibition, gay/bi/etc. rights, felony inflation, the federalization of too many issues, the utter destruction that has been wrought on our educational establishment, for a short list of my personal political applecarts).

I think that I’m most closely aligned, ideologically, with Robert Anton Wilson’s “Guns and Dope Party”. ๐Ÿ™‚

Only, ya know, without the guns here, per se.

June 14, 2005 @ 10:20 pm | Comment

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