speech means a free internet — even if crooked Democrats don't like it
UK blame Russia for coordinated cyberattacks on internet
Federal Election Commission (FEC)recently
held two days of hearingson
proposed internet regulations. While thehysterical
ginned up a new “red scare,” the FEC’s proposals will do
nothing to stop bad actors, but will undermine our First
Amendment rights to online political speech.
FEC used the hearings, at which Itestified,
to consider different approaches — some more restrictive
than others — to “improve” disclaimers for online
political advertising. Yet FEC regulations already require
political action committees (PACs) and other online
spenders to use disclaimers where they can, or to click
through to fully disclaimed pages if they can’t. PACs are
also required to disclose all of their expenditures
monthly or quarterly, and file special reports whenever
spending more than modestly to support or oppose
regulations are clear and comprehensive. The law isn’t the
so-called problem being addressed here, though; it’s all
that persnickety speech outside the political
The FEC’s Democrats, most notably Vice Chairwoman Ellen
for by Russia or other foreign countries,” urging Congress
to “regulate political spending on the internet.” But that’s
bad actors in the first place.
actors won’t comply with the law — because they’re bad
actors. For the political elites, who can afford to hire
campaign finance lawyers and well-paid vendors, the FEC’s
proposals will at most be a nuisance as they continue
delivering their messages online.
the internet will only overburden everyone else who would
seek to comply with the law, or simply stay silent. The
left’s quick-trigger response is as aggressively
anti-First Amendment as they are to the Second Amendment,
and every bit as pointless. Echoing anti-gun activists,
anti-speech liberals attempt to punish lawful activity
they dislike with rules that won’t stop unlawful activity.
political advertisers violate the regulations on the
books, they should be pursued and punished. But the left’s
vision of a less free internet is little more than
ill-considered, knee-jerk reaction toHillary
Clinton’s failed presidential bid.
Trump’s candidacy and eventual victory led
Congress and federal agencies to take a heightened
interest in Facebook advertising and other forms of truly
open, online speech through which the Trump message
flourished. Following the 2016 election, Sen.Mark
ads “that would drive interest toward stories or groups”
to “sow chaos and drive division in our country.” In other
words, ideas he doesn’t like.
news” on social media elected President Trump. As NPR
reporter Danielle Kurtzleben put it, “Many purveyors of
fake news aimed to help Trump win, and lo and behold,
Trump won.” In other words, ideas they don’t approve of.
course, such assertions don’t hold up to empirical
scrutiny. Zuckerberg first came under congressional
worth of Russian-bought Facebook ads.
Not all of them were even explicitly political: Of the
roughly 3,500 Facebook ads traced back to Russia,only
support for President Trump or opposition to Clinton.
we really supposed to believe that $10,000 and 100 ads
felled the billion-dollar Clinton machine — the epitome of
political establishment? Or, could it be Americans simply
rejected an out-of-touch liberal they didn’t like and
enact broader internet regulations because of the
Democratic Party’s sour grapes is the definition of
foolishness. Anti-speech Democrats and their establishment
enablers assume Americans are mindless simpletons, bought
off by the wealthiest candidates and most expensive ad
we so quickly forgotten the debacle of Jeb Bush? Or Sen.Marco
Rubio(R-Fla.)? Or even
Clinton herself? Along withMitt
Romney, these were the candidates with the
largest super PACs in U.S. history — and they all lost.
bottom line is this: It’s up to Americans to decide which
ideas to support or oppose. Political advertising only
brings them more ideas to consider — and broadens the
parameters of our political debates.
is especially true online, where debates are at their most
robust. Stifling them with red tape is un-American.
free speech on the internet free from Big Government.
Backer is founding attorney ofpolitical.law,
a campaign finance and political law firm in Alexandria,
Va. Backer is general counsel for the Great America PAC
and other political committees; he has served as counsel
to more than 100 campaigns, candidates, PACs, and
political organizations. Backer is also thepresident
and founder of theCoolidge