Monday, September 23, 2013

Last week, as a parting gift to its chairwoman, Ann Ravel (who is slated to be confirmed to the Federal Election Commission), the California Fair Political Practices Commission enacted a sweeping proposal to regulate online political communication

The FPPC’s New Role: The Internet Cop - Steven Maviglio/Fox&Hounds

In last year’s political cycle, voters turned to the Internet like never before. Californians were tweeting and posting political news to their Facebook, Tumblr, Reddit and other social media accounts in record numbers, with millions of postings during the recent GOP and Democratic conventions alone.

Advances we couldn’t even envision a couple years ago appeared last cycle: More than 200,000 voters signed up for an app that allowed them to be the first to know who Mitt Romney would name as vice president; Obama supporters were able to contribute up to $50 to the president’s re-election campaign via their mobile phone by texting “Give.”

These innovations are the result of armies of social media campaigners — now a mainstay of statewide races and ballot initiatives — who are engaging voters in new and interesting ways. But that creativity will now be stifled by a regulation that requires each post outside of a campaign’s own platform to be ID’d and reported to state government. That’s tough enough for a well-funded campaign, never mind ashoestring campaigns, that will add an onerous new layer of regulation that will result in less online communication.

The FPPC doesn’t have the resources – nor the need – to become the Internet police. It should stick to its knitting and work on enforcing the voluminous campaign reporting rules already on the books, instead of attempting to slow the revolution of online communication that is revolutionizing California politics.