Congressional Democrats Throw First Amendment into the Wastebin

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” — First Amendment to the Constitution

According to Declan McCullagh, Congress refused to act on a law aimed at protecting the First Amendment rights of bloggers. You won’t see me siding with Republicans very often, but if this report is accurate, I’ll take exception to this rule:

In an acrimonious debate that broke largely along party lines, more than three-quarters of congressional Democrats voted to oppose the reform bill, which had enjoyed wide support from online activists and Web commentators worried about having to comply with a tangled skein of rules.

The vote tally in the House of Representatives, 225 to 182, was not enough to send the Online Freedom of Speech Act to the Senate. Under the rules that House leaders adopted to accelerate the process, a two-thirds supermajority was required.

“I’m horribly disappointed that this important measure failed to pass,” said Rep. Mark Kennedy, R-Minn. “This bill was designed to protect the free-speech rights of Americans whose only alleged crime is wanting to use the Internet to express their opinions.”

Since I’ve always been told that Democrats are supposed to be the defenders of our civil liberties, I went looking for some Democratic outrage over this outcome, but couldn’t find it. What’s truly telling is that a search for “Online Freedom of Speech Act” over at provided the response of “Found 0 results.”

  1. Our civil servants. They don’t care what the bill is, they found out that the republicans were voting for it, so they voted against it. Talk about voting with the name of the bill, “The Online Freedom of Speech Act” how can you vote against that?

  2. Mike,

    The only real argument provided by that article (other than on the merits of a good manicure) is: “In the meantime, there is simply no need to sacrifice reasonable campaign finance reforms over the prospect of run-amok regulations that haven’t even been written.”

    Current campaign finance laws are not reasonable. BCRA (McCain-Feingold) sucks and they are an equal violation of the First Amendment. Additionally, should I choose to run $100,000 of blogads for the candidate of my choice, it should be my prerogative.

  3. The bill was introduced under fast-track rules that require a 2/3 supermajority for it to pass. It came just short of the required 2/3. My understanding is the bill will be reintroduced under the slower “normal” (is there such a thing?) process which only requires a simple majority, and it’s not likely anything will stop it at that point.

    But the most interesting part was what Rep. Marty Meehan (D-Mass.) had to say about the bill.

  4. Actually, Daily Kos has been hammering on this issue for weeks. A simple glance at their homepage (as of this comment) shows a huge piece on the issue.

  5. The Democrats and Republicans (as well as a host of other minor political parties) seem to adhere to a simple rule — the first amendment is a great idea when applied to them and their agendas. It does not count when their political opponents exercise their first amendment rights.

    An even bigger problem for them is when ordinary citizens freely exchange ideas via the internet. Immediately they want to pull the plug. The Constitution begins with “We, the people…”, not we, the government. The problem I have is for the first time, the government can eavesdrop in real time on all exchanges of ideas all the time when we converse electronically. Prior to the internet, one could carry on a conversation with others and not be particularly worried whether the government was spying all the time. The internet is a curse and a blessing at the same time and ripe for government’s ability to abuse our constitutional freedoms.

  6. I think this quote pretty much sums up what I think about the republicans and democrats view on the constitution.

    During the late 20th century the word “liberal” came to mean someone whose copy of the Bill of Rights was missing the Second and Tenth Amendments, and the word “conservative” someone whose copy was missing the First and the Ninth.
    — Jon Roland, May, 1994

  7. Uh… granted the internet provides a new medium with which to spy on you however there are ways to augment your privacy. The internet is also not the only way that the government has to spy on you enmass.

    Let’s first cover other ways in which they have been able to spy on the general populace.
    a global network of computers
    the largest signals intelligence and analysis network
    remotely mirror what is being done on a remote device
    previously believed that such monitoring was a highly sophisticated attack available only to governments

    There are MANY MANY more ways with which the government can and does monitor it’s own citizens. Do a few searches on Google and I’m sure you’ll find plenty of interesting if scary “projects” out there.

    Now let’s cover ways in which you can augment your privacy online.
    EFF’s Top 12 Ways to Protect Your Online Privacy
    Privacy And Anonymity

    A few simple things that you can do on your own to augment your online privacy.

    One thing that most people seem to ignore is their web browser as well as the configuration of said browser. If you are using Internet Explorer for anything other than Windows Update then you are already throwing your information out to the world.

    I personally would recommend any alternative web browser that allows you to configure “session ONLY cookies” this will go leaps and bounds toward establishing a higher level of privacy.

    Another easy and quick way to augment your privacy AND online security is to buy an inexpensive broadband router, if you need help ask someone you know that has one, to help you set it up *properly*.

    This is HUGE, too many folks have Windows PC’s out there that are NOT updated regularly and are plunked down directly on their broadband connection. Then the ISP’s ban you because you have virii and spyware on your machines.

    I don’t wish to rant so I will finish with this last one…. don’t download everything under the sun and stop using cracks for games, applications or Operating Systems. If you can’t afford Windows… then have a friend of the family build you a linux box… trust me once you start using it… you will come to love the stability and ease of use.

    It is up to you to protect your privacy from individuals and the government alike. I apologize for being so long-winded… be aware though… the internet is NOT the only technology available with which to spy on you.

  8. I do not believe we as individuals can outperform the government in spying on us via intercepting internet communications. It has been revealed (by accident by a Deputy CIA Director) that 44 billion dollars is budgeted for intelligence gathering. With that kind of budget, they can and will crack any and all security that you or any other citizen can invent or install. You are at the mercy of our own government and new technology we may not even know about.

  9. “You are at the mercy of our own government and new technology we may not even know about.”
    True enough…

    Carnivore is a good example of one such technology that the FBI once used.

    but then again… it also depends on who and what you know.