New web resource designed to demystify Internet political speech rules

[Center for Democracy and Technology announcement]

The vast majority of political speech by individuals on the Internet is fully protected by the law and carries no risk of violating campaign finance rules. That is the key message of NetDemocracyGuide.org, a new Web site created by the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) to educate Internet users about their rights and obligations under campaign finance law.

By drastically lowering the costs associated with mass communication, the Internet has given ordinary individuals the opportunity to participate in the political debate on a scale never before possible. But with the Internet's growing impact on electoral politics has come increased scrutiny by policymakers and regulators regarding how federal campaign finance reform laws should be applied to the medium. The Federal Election Commission has promulgated a range of rules aimed at protecting individuals' rights to speak on the Internet. Those rules, however, are part of a much larger and very complex set of campaign finance rules, and it is important that ordinary Internet users not let those rules deter them from engaging in political activity online.

"The worst possible response to the FEC rules would be for Internet users to scale back their political activities. The vast majority of political speakers online shouldn't lose any sleep worrying about campaign finance regulations," CDT Executive Director Leslie Harris said. "People need to know that -- with very few exceptions -- they are free to develop websites, blog, e-mail campaign material, raise money, and collaborate with their friends on election related activities online without fear of incurring campaign finance obligations."

NetDemocracyGuide.org offers users a series of simple questions to determine whether their online political activities fall under the campaign finance regime. As visitors to the site will learn, the campaign finance rules kick in only in very limited circumstances -- primarily where payments are made to place advertisements and other communications on third party blogs and websites.

Developed with the support of the Carnegie Corporation of New York NetDemocracyGuide.org makes it easy for bloggers and other citizen activists to quickly understand the new campaign finance rules, and how those rules apply to them.

The site is broken down into three easy-to-read sections. The Quick Checklist identifies a range of common online political activities that are not restricted in any way by the campaign finance rules. For users unsure whether their activities fall into that protected category, the Questions & Answers section walks users through possible scenarios and how they are affected under the law. Finally the Glossary describes the major terms and includes links to the regulations themselves.

About CDT: The Center for Democracy and Technology works to promote democratic values and constitutional liberties in the digital age. With expertise in law, technology, and policy, CDT seeks practical solutions to enhance free expression and privacy in global communications technologies. CDT is dedicated to building consensus among all parties interested in the future of the Internet and other new communications media.

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