Red-taping political bloggers

Is San Francisco, of all places, poised to crack down on Web politicking?

Published April 5, 2005 7:02PM (EDT)

Last month, the blogosphere was abuzz with speculation about whether changes to campaign finance reform law would include an attempt to regulate online political advocacy. So far, the initial scare seems to have been a bit overblown -- but some local governments are still exploring the possibility of election-related blog-monitoring. A case in point is San Francisco, whose governing Board of Supervisors will vote Tuesday on legislation that would require some bloggers to register their activities with the city's Ethics Commission.

Under the proposed ordinance, blogs that mention candidates for local office by name and get more than 500 hits would have to pay a registration fee and be subject to Web traffic audits. Political bloggers (including the bickering, blog-happy supervisors themselves) would also have to report all blog-related costs exceeding $1,000 per calendar year, as well as any payments over $100 that they receive.

Even if the legislation passes, it's unclear whether San Francisco has sufficient funding or staff to bust delinquent political bloggers or audit blog traffic. The city's Ethics Commission has been struggling to enforce local campaign spending limits since a spate of budget cuts reduced its resources. But even if the commission can manage the challenges, there's something a bit odd about the prospect of the country's most liberal, dot-com-friendly city leading the charge to regulate online politicking.

By Page Rockwell

Page Rockwell is Salon's editorial project manager.

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