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Two states to police political sites

An election "security seal" program intended for Web sites kept by politicians signed up two state officials on Tuesday.

At a Washington press conference, secretaries of state from New Mexico and Kentucky said they planned to launch the program during the 2006 election cycle. The product's parent, ElectionMall, bills it as a secure, real-time authentication system that ultimately allows Web surfers to detect, by searching a special database or looking for a graphic seal, whether the political Web sites they visit are actually sponsored by candidates or spoofed.

The regulation-resistent blogosphere, however, has found ElectionMall's products laughable. The company in June announced plans to develop a "Blogger Identity Seal," through which bloggers would report their campaign contributions to an online database run by the company and display on their sites a "seal" graphic linking to that information. Markos Zúniga, who runs the political blog DailyKos and has testified before the Federal Election Commission, said in an e-mail that the blogger seal product "is about the stupidest thing I've ever seen."

The election seal, too, takes the wrong approach, said Mike Krempasky, who runs the political blog and has also spoken out against regulation: "It would be unfortunate if this is the way they went instead of actually educating voters about being wise donors and skeptical donors--simply teaching people, just like we do about Paypal. Everybody and their brother knows you don't click on a link in a Paypal email, because there's phishing and spoofing."

Although they voiced concern that phony political sites are on the rise, the state officials at Tuesday's press conference admitted they haven't yet received complaints specifically about such behavior. They said the service, which they justified as a precautionary measure, would be voluntary and free to candidates in their states, though that may change: An ElectionMall fact sheet said registration listed a $50 to $100 price tag for the product.