In a recent op-ed, Steven Maviglio and Jon Fleischman, two veteran California bloggers, lavish praise on the Fair Political Practices Commission for its suggestions on how to regulate online political activity. According to the two, “the use of the Internet for political activity has enriched democracy, inspired creativity and fostered robust debate.” So what’s the problem? Well, it turns out that some people have been talking in ways that the two don’t like. So in order to “tame politics on [the] Web,” as the two put it, California has chosen to toss anonymity out the window and to require that candidates’ Facebook posts, tweets, and e-mails be larded up with as many disclaimers as they can bear.
Although Maviglio and Fleischman commend the FPPC for its light touch, we here at Congress Shall Make No Law have an even more modest suggestion: do nothing. The First Amendment protects all Americans’ rights to talk about whatever they want. Freedom of speech is our birthright, not a mere privilege that the government may grant or deny as it sees fit.
When the Founders said “Congress shall make no law…”, they meant it. Those simple words should categorically place our right to speak beyond the grasps of any would-be censors, let alone censors who think that more disclosure is always better. And even where the law does give the government some leeway, it does so only to the extent that the government proves that there is a serious problem that cannot be addressed with any other tools.
California’s bureaucrats have not even tried to demonstrate that a serious problem exists. Voters can decide for themselves what weight to give to anonymous messages. Despite issuing (pdf) a 19-page report on the subject, the FPPC never demonstrate how its boogeyman of anonymous Internet speech has led to ruin. The only thing the report does show is that the FPPC seems to think that it should regulate the Internet simply because it can. In a land where freedom of speech is the rule, not the exception, a regulator’s “I wanna” is simply not enough.
Image Source: M3Li55@