FEC approves new Internet rules (UPI)

UPI Technology Correspondent

WASHINGTON, March 27 (UPI) — The Federal Election Commission approved Monday new rules that would specifically deal with paid Internet political ads on Web sites, but excepting most Internet communications including blogging.

It was approved unanimously in a 6-0 vote after a 96-page proposal was released on Friday.

FEC’s decision to review the Internet and public communications was prompted by the United States District Court for the District of Columbia in Shays v. Federal Election Commission.

The Internet has become an increasing political landscape since the 2004 election cycle, according to the FEC, which saw the number of Americans using the Internet as a source of campaign news grow from 30 million to 63 million from 2000 to 2004.

Moreover, the FEC cited that about 11 million people relying on politically oriented blogs as a primary source of information during the 2004 presidential campaign.

Under the new set of rules, it would alter the current definition of “public communication,” which in the past excluded the Internet, to include paid Internet advertising placed on another person’s Web site.

Paid Internet advertising placed on Web sites includes banner advertisements, streaming video, pop-up advertisements, and directed search results and is differentiated from blogging and personal Web sites by cost.

Internet advertising revenue has been increasing, the FEC said, citing that it grew 33.9 percent between third quarter of 2004 and third quarter of 2005, reaching $3.1 billion for the third quarter of 2005.

But as far as the rules go, no minimum threshold was established by the Commission.

Blogs on the other hand was considered low-cost, and the FCC was warned that peer-to-peer podcasts could replace blogs in the low-cost Internet debate, more reason for broad rules.

“These final rules are intended to ensure that political committees properly finance and disclose their Internet communications without impeding individual citizens from using the Internet to speak freely regarding candidates and elections,” the FEC wrote in its draft. (more…)