Apparently the Online Freedom of Speech Act failed to pass in the House of Representatives tonight. I infer this from a statement we got a few minutes ago from Minnesota Congressman Mark Kennedy, a leading proponent of free speech, including free speech on the web. Mark writes:
I’m horribly disappointed that this important measure failed to pass. 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.
I disagree with the mainstream media elites who seem to think that an unregulated media is dangerous, unless it is them who are being regulated. What is disturbing and dangerous to me, and to the constituents I represent, is the ease with which so many advocate government regulation of speech.
Bloggers are everyday citizens. They are our neighbors, friends, and coworkers who want to be able to share their ideas without asking permission from a gatekeeper in the mainstream media and certainly not from a government official. They are the historical descendants of Founding Fathers like Thomas Paine and other pamphleteers who contributed enormously to our democracy.
We are trying to spread a message of hope, opportunity, and freedom around the world. I supported this legislation so that we don’t lose the ability to have that message shared among the American people, and I am frankly disappointed that a majority of Members don’t see it that way.
Mark Kennedy is staking out a position as one of the leading advocates of free speech in America today. What is happening here is that certain people–the editorial board of the New York Times, the Democrats on the Federal Election Commission–are trying to put sites like this one out of business. Frankly, I haven’t followed the progress of the Online Freedom of Speech Act closely because I thought the idea that the FEC would try to shut down political discussion on the web was ridiculous. It appears that we have to take the threat to our First Amendment rights more seriously.
UPDATE: Our friend Joshua Sharf sends this link to the roll call vote. As Joshua notes, the vote was on a motion to suspend the rules and adopt the bill, which required a 2/3 majority. The measure had a 225-182 vote, which suggests that it could yet pass. I don’t pretend to be an expert on the House rules, so we will continue to follow this story as it develops. The vote indicates which party favors free speech; the Republicans voted in favor, 179 to 38, while the Democrats opposed the measure, 143 to 46. A stark contrast. We will try to track down some of our friends in the House and find out the story behind the vote.
UPDATE: Patriot Blog has more on the bill’s background.