Today, EFF and the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) filed joint comments to the FEC, urging the agency to leave its current Internet rules in place. As we blogged about earlier this week, the FEC is considering whether or not to develop new Internet rules. But as we note in our earlier post—and in our comments to the FEC—increased regulation of the Internet could chill speech and harm privacy and anonymity.
Increased regulation of online political speech may also undermine two goals of campaign finance reform: protecting freedom of political speech and expanding political participation. As we explain in our comments:
Unlike political advertisements in the offline world, the Internet is not merely a tool of the wealthy political elite. Ordinary individuals can purchase Internet ads, create YouTube videos, and post banners on their personal websites to express support for particular candidates or parties—all for little or no cost. Extending campaign finance regulation to free and low-cost Internet speech will discourage individual citizens from engaging in such forms of political expression. Campaign finance rules should encourage—not discourage—participation in the online political debate.
As an organization dedicated to transparency, we appreciate the value in increasing public understanding of how money influences elections. However, we do not have confidence that the FEC can increase its regulation of online speech without harming free speech, privacy, and anonymity.