Congresswoman Virginia Foxx (NC-5) today announced her co-sponsorship of the Blogger Protection Act of 2008 (H.R. 5699), a bill that safeguards the First Amendment rights of bloggers. The Blogger Protection Act will transform current regulations that protect bloggers’ rights into permanent federal law.
“Bloggers are a vital part of our national dialogue,” Foxx said. “Everyday, countless Americans take part in the political process via the blogosphere—breaking news, checking facts and voicing support or opposition to various candidates. We must ensure their rights are protected.”
The Federal Election Commission (FEC) issued regulations two years ago to ensure bloggers free speech rights were not infringed upon by certain campaign finance laws. This ruling protected bloggers from misinterpretations of the law. Concerns had been raised that some people might construe bloggers writing about or linking to federal campaigns as a contribution or expenditure on behalf of (or in opposition to) a candidate.
Additionally, the FEC ruled that blogs should be treated like any other publication under federal campaign laws. Without such protections, bloggers could be subject to various limitations and reporting requirements under campaign finance law. But all of these blogger protections are merely regulatory—they are not in the law and can be changed without congressional action.
“We must not leave the First Amendment rights of bloggers in the hands of the Federal Election Commission,” Foxx said. “Bloggers' rights are too important to leave them to the whims of a panel of federal regulators.”
Note: H.R. 5699 does not alter contribution limits to candidates merely because the contributions are made online. Rather, the bill would turn existing regulations into law. It would protect activities such as bloggers linking to campaign websites and editorializing about candidates and would ensure that these activities are not regarded as contributions to candidates.
For More Information, check out Foxx's Video explaining the issue, below.