Thursday, March 03, 2005

Cages or wings; which do you prefer?

Okay, here's a question concerning the rather scary prospect of regulating online political speech. Campaign contributions from foreign nationals are (quite rightly) banned. (If that weren't the case, I've got a feeling every madman, kleptocrat and tyrant threatened by the Bush Doctrine - I'm thinking Iranian mullahs, Saudi princes, ChiComs, the DPRK nomenklatura, etc. - would have been in a quite generous mood donating to the Kerry campaign.) However, if blogging is treated as private political speech, as these proposals seem to indicate, what happens to foreign bloggers? If a link has value, be it a fraction of a cent or half a dollar, what happens to me if I link to an American campaign site? Will there be some mechanism to break my link, and dead-end anyone coming from an IP outside the country? How about if I say something aloud to the effect of "Americans should vote for candidate X, not candidate Y?" Does the value vary depending on how many hear it? Could there perhaps be even harsher penalties, for attempting to circumvent federal electoral law? Will the FEC be prepared to demand extradition to try repeat or heavy offenders in American courts? Most of that is overwhelmingly unlikely; even as a paranoid thought experiment, though, it highlights the problems in attempting to enforce a rampantly silly policy. Limiting freedom of speech in aid of "fairness" is no virtue on any count. (Via Instapundit.)

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