WASHINGTON, March 5 - Federal election commissioners are preparing to consider how revamped campaign finance laws apply to political activity on the Internet, including online advertising, fund-raising e-mail messages and Web logs.
Anyone who decides to "set up a blog, send out mass e-mails, any kind of activity that can be done on the Internet" could be subject to Federal Election Commission regulation, Bradley A. Smith, a Republican commissioner, said in an interview posted Thursday on the technology news site Cnet.com.
Right on the heels of that story came this one:
In a case with implications for the freedom to blog, a San Jose judge tentatively ruled Thursday that Apple Computer can force three online publishers to surrender the names of confidential sources who disclosed information about the company's upcoming products.
Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge James Kleinberg refused to extend to the Web sites a protection that shields journalists from revealing the names of unidentified sources or turning over unpublished material.
Apparently, only "real journalists" are afforded the full protections of the First Ammendment. The question is, how do we determine who the approved free speakers are? Let's take a look at the First Ammendment to the Constitution and see if we can find an answer.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
Not much help there. I guess the framers didn't forsee blogs. Maybe we can devise a licensing scheme like we have with guns (perhaps free speech is a collective right, like we have been told the right to keep and bear arms is). I guess we'll have to ammend the First Ammendment. Let's try this on for size (proposed changes are in bold):
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the right to apply for a license to exercise freedom of speech, or of the licensed press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
There. That's much better. Now the constitution won't get in the way of "free" speech regulation anymore. All you have to do if you want to blog is to apply for a license. Look for speech license fees to be really high. After all, ya gotta keep the riff-raff out. Start saving your pennies. Some day you too may be able to express yourself in the well regulated brave new world.
As for me, I won't be applying for a license. I'll just scrawl my political ramblings onto pictures of naked people and post those on my site. Regulating political speech is one thing, but pornography is downright sacred to the American judiciary.