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by Mike Zazaian January 18, 2007 - 2:21pm, 38 Comments

Cartoon depicting violation of first amendment rights online
In a move that mirrors China’s attempts to censor political bloggers, members of the United States Senate have drafted a bill that would criminalize bloggers and other media pundits who criticize the US Congress without a license to do so.

According to Richard A. Viguerie, Chairman of GrassrootsFreedom.com, section 220 of S. 1, the lobbying reform bill currently before Congress would make it illegal to communicate to 500 or more members of the public on policy matters without registering and reporting to the Senate on a quarterly basis. Due to the vague usage of the term communicate in the proposed bill, these restrictions would impose the same legal and financial obligations as are currently required of large-scale lobbying organizations on any individual attempting to convey political ideas to a group of 500 or more through any medium. Bloggers, vloggers, and any other communicators who fall under these guidelines would face fines, or jail time of up to one year for knowingly and willingly fail[ing] to file or report [prior to commenting on public policy].

Senator David Vitter (R-LA), who introduced the lobbying reform bill to congress, seems to have recoiled in the face of opposition to his initial offering. Shortly after proposing the aforementioned restrictions to congress, Vitter became a co-sponsor of Amendment 20, which would effectively remove Vitter’s contributions to Section 220. Amendment 20, introduced Senator Robert Bennett (R-UT), will be voted upon within the week.

The proposed bill frighteningly mirrors efforts by the Chinese government to require bloggers to use their official names when communicating with an online audience. According to Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency, the aim of the proposition is to exert greater control over bloggers who publish Irresponsible and untrue information.

The Internet Society of China (ISC), which will be responsible for developing the proposed system, says that no proposals have yet been finalized.

Via PR Newswire
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