San Francisco may not regulate bloggers after all

It looks like San Francisco political bloggers may be able to rest easy. Maybe.

The Board of Supervisors has been considering an ordinance that would regulate some forms of online politicking, though it wasn't clear exactly what it meant. But after an Internet-based outcry, a narrow majority seems to have decided to take a more laissez-faire approach.

Basically the politicos on Tuesday divided one piece of legislation into two different components for procedural reasons. Each is more blog-friendly than the original. Version #1 simply deletes the word "Internet," while Version #2 specifies that only paid Internet advertisements must come with disclosures. (Chris Nolan has details, though I think she missed the key deletion that was made in Version #1.)

There are two important things to note here. First, it's not clear what the ultimate legislation will say once the supervisors get done with it, so we should keep paying attention. Second, it's not even clear what the poorly-drafted original ordinance said.

No less an authority than Eugene Volokh, a law professor at UCLA who has written a textbook on free speech, couldn't quite figure it out. What he eventually came up with is that the original version of the legislation would have required anonymous bloggers to disclose their identity in some circumstances, as long as their Web sites were popular enough to lure more than 500 potential voters. Also unclear is whether online writers would have qualified for the "news exemption."

San Francisco isn't alone, of course. First it was Apple Computer insisting that online scribes aren't legitimate journalists. Then the Federal Election Commission considered a blogospheric crackdown and sensibly moderated its views, though Canada didn't.

It really might be simpler, or at least more straightforward, if San Francisco politicos would go back to enacting windmill-tilting laws likely to be overturned by the courts or voting for more resolutions about "Far West Fungi Day." That was last week, by the way.

 

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