FEC Resolved Two Matters Involving Internet Activity; Applies Media Exemption to Political Blogs
The Federal Election Commission announced that it has unanimously resolved two complaints alleging that Internet blog activity is subject to Commission regulation, finding that the activity is exempt from regulation under the media or volunteer exemption.
In Matter Under Review (MUR) 5928, the Commission determined that Kos Media, L.L.C., which operates the website DailyKos, did not violate the Federal Election Campaign Act. The Commission rejected allegations that the site should be regulated as a political committee because it charges a fee to place advertising on its website and it provides “a gift of free advertising and candidate media services” by posting blog entries that support candidates. The Commission determined that the website falls squarely within the media exemption and is therefore not subject to federal regulation under the Act.
Since 1974, media activity has been explicitly exempted from federal campaign finance regulation. In March 2006, the Commission made clear that this exemption extends to online media publications and that “costs incurred in covering or carrying a news story, commentary, or editorial by any broadcasting station. . . , Web site, newspaper, magazine, or other periodical publication, including any Internet or electronic publication,” are not a contribution or expenditure unless the facility is owned by a political party, committee, or candidate. With respect to MUR 5928, the FEC found that Kos Media meets the definition of a media entity and that the activity described in the complaint falls within the media exemption. Thus, activity on the DailyKos website does not constitute a contribution or expenditure that would trigger political committee status. The Commission therefore found no reason to believe Kos Media, DailyKos.com, or Markos Moulitsas Zuniga violated federal campaign finance law.
In MUR 5853, the Commission rejected allegations that Michael L. Grace made unreported expenditures when he leased space on a computer server to create a “blog” which advocated the defeat of Representative Mary Bono in the November 2006 election. The Commission also rejected allegations that Grace coordinated these expenditures with Bono’s opponent in the race, David Roth, and found that no in-kind contributions to Roth’s campaign resulted from Grace’s blogging activity. The Commission also found that the respondent did not fraudulently misrepresent himself in violation of 2U.S.C. § 441h.
The Act exempts from regulation volunteer activity by individuals. In the FEC’s Internet regulations, the Commission clarified that an individual’s use, without compensation, of equipment and personal services for blogging, creating, or hosting a website for the purpose of influencing a Federal election are not expenditures subject to the restrictions of campaign finance law. Even if there were some costs or value associated with Mr. Grace’s blog, these costs are exempt from Commission regulations. The FEC therefore found no reason to believe Mr. Grace or the Roth campaign violated federal campaign finance law."
Additional information regarding MURs can be found on the FEC website at http://www.fec.gov/em/mur.shtml. [RJ]
What's the buzz on ... corporate Wikipedia editing?
Each week, CNN.com takes a look at trends in the blogosphere by tracking one topic. Recently, the focus was on the editing of Wikipedia articles by corporations and other entities. See our earlier posts See Who's Editing Wikipedia (Diebold, CIA) Using Wikipedia Scanner, Law Firms One-Up Each Other Behind the Scenes Through Wikipedia Edits, and Federal Agencies Modify Wikipedia Entries for Dubious Purposes.
From the article:
Bloggers engaged in mostly negative conversations about Wikipedia editing by corporations and other organizations, accounting for fully two-thirds of all comments. Only 4 percent had positive opinions, and 29 percent maintained a neutral stance. Many said corporate editing is morally questionable and a form of propaganda despite Wikipedia's open-source spirit. Overall, bloggers seemed to be unclear about whether or not the editing was done by public-relations staff or others within organizations, but said employees within corporations have tainted viewpoints. Those with negative viewpoints were split between blaming the open format and the entities responsible for the editing. Some went so far as to say that news of corporate editing isn't very surprising and that the controversy has finally provided "proof" that Wikipedia is not a fully credible information source. Others congratulated Griffith for his invention. Some bloggers also highlighted that corporations aren't the only organizations who have been accused of being involved in Wikipedia edits; government, religious, nonprofit, news and political organizations were also mentioned.
Federal Agencies Modify Wikipedia Entries for Dubious Purposes
Ralph Smith at fedsmith.com writes about federal agencies modifying Wikipedia entries:
Searching through the changes made on equipment within several agencies, it is obvious that public affairs offices or agency experts are working to keep name changes, organizational changes or descriptions of agency programs and projects up to date. That, presumably, is part of their job and useful to the public. But what other changes, if any, are being made through the use of government computers?
Read Using Federal Government Equipment to Modify Wikipedia for the "other changes" he uncovered.
Hat tip to Dru Stevenson, editor of Administrative Law Prof Blog. [JH]
Law Firms One-Up Each Other Behind the Scenes Through Wikipedia Edits
Interesting article from Law.com: "Big law firms may seem genteel and respectful of each other on the surface. But behind the scenes, they're secretly trying to one-up each other. Concurring Opinions breaks the story in this post, A Slow Day at the Office: Lawyers Editing on Wikipedia. " [RJ]