The Next Regulation? Your Tweets

Out in California, the Fair Political Practices Commission is looking at regulating new platforms for political speech, such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, even text messaging:

It’s become necessary as politicians in California and elsewhere announce their candidacies and major campaign policies through Twitter, YouTube and a host of social networking sites, said FPPC Chairman Dan Schnur.

He said California’s 36-year-old Political Reform Act needs rewriting to keep up with the times.

“Our goal here is to meet the new challenges of 21st Century technology,” Schnur said. “There’s no way that the authors of the act could have anticipated that these of types of communicating a campaign message would ever exist.”

Over at the Institute for Justice, Paul Sherman writes:

To paraphrase Chief Justice John Roberts, this is why we don’t leave our free speech rights in the hands of FPPC bureaucrats.  To bureaucrats like those at the FPPC, the Federal Election Commission or their analogues, there seems to be no need to show any evidence that Twitter, Facebook or text messages actually pose any threat to the public.  It is enough that they these new forms of low-cost media aren’t currently regulated, but could be.  Their primary concern, apparently, is that the regulation of political speech be as comprehensive as possible.

Here’s an alternative recommendation for the FPPC:  Leave the Internet alone.  What you will undoubtedly find is that California voters—and, indeed, Americans generally—don’t need you to protect them from political speech.  To the contrary, the First Amendment reflects a profound commitment to the idea that you are the very last people we should trust to control the content of our political debate.

The demagoguery we’ve seen in after the Citizens United decision is breeding this sort of reaction across the country. With freedom comes an excess, and just because someone may not be acting with the best intentions is not a reason to restrict free speech and expression.


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