Friday, May 13, 2005

This is bad…

… or at least detrimental to free speech. Although in practice restrictions on bloggers will be difficult to enforce, various governments in Canada and the U.S. are trying to normalize the idea that political speech is a distinct form of communication synonymous with advertising — the constitutional protection of free speech of which citizens have long ago surrendered to the state. Already in Canada we can't pay our own money to advertise so-called partisan positions. In fact, of all forms of speech, political speech is the most important to protect in order to have a functioning democracy — oops, my bad.

From the CBC:

Elections B.C. is having a hard time keeping up with a boom of bloggers who are publishing partisan messages during the current election campaign. They're supposed to register themselves as advertising sponsors if they post a partisan position on a candidate, party, or referendum question.

"Under the Election Act, it will fall within the definition of election advertising, and we would ask them to register," says Jennifer Miller, of Elections B.C.

Miller says the volume of sites is overwhelming, and doesn't rule out asking for a change to the Election Act. "If we feel certain parts of the act can be amended to make it more effective and efficient, we will definitely make that recommendation," she says.

That's not sitting well with bloggers like Mike Culpepper of Nelson, whose website advocates the "no" side of the referendum on the single transferable vote. He says Elections B.C.'s definition of blogs as advertising is akin to calling a letter to the editor advertising. And he says that going after bloggers sends a chill over the right to free speech. "If you start looking on each person as an advertiser, then you begin to suppress political debate."
[HT: Neale News]