I agree with the law professor who said this could be troubling for free speech. I worry about the precedent that it creates, and about the possibility of it eventually being expanded to any kind of political speech that anyone makes on the internet.
USA Today reports:
Judge: School’s Facebook post a campaign contribution
DENVER — A Colorado judge has ruled that a charter school’s Facebook post amounts to an illegal campaign contribution to a school board candidate.
In August, Liberty Common School in Fort Collins, Colo., shared a newspaper article about a student’s parent running for a board seat in a neighboring school district. Liberty Common’s principal, former Colorado GOP Rep. Bob Schaffer, then shared the post and called candidate Tomi Grundvig an “excellent education leader” who would provide “sensible stewardship” of Thompson School District.
An administrative law judge, Matthew E. Norwood, called the violation “minor,” and ruled that “no government money of any significant amount was spent to make the contribution.” He also focused on the post to the school’s specific page, not Schaffer’s personal page.
“The school’s action was the giving of a thing of value to the candidate, namely favorable publicity,” Norwood wrote in his Oct. 14 ruling, which became public Wednesday. “It was given indirectly to her for the purpose of promoting her election.”
Law professor Scott Moss of the University of Colorado called that point troubling for its implications on political speech.
“I don’t buy that under the First Amendment speech about a candidate can be deemed a contribution,” Moss said after reading the ruling. “Is speech valuable? Yes. But that’s not a basis for restricting core political speech.”
When it comes to successful American internet companies such as Google, Amazon, and Facebook, the French government wants the European Union to “level the playing field,” and thinks that government regulation is needed to “allow the emergence of alternatives in Europe to U.S. Web giants.”
American internet companies did not become successful due to an “uneven playing field,” or because of U.S. regulations that “allowed the emergence” of successful internet companies. Instead, American internet companies became successful because they created great websites that gave their customers what the customers wanted.
All the regulations in the world won’t give France a single successful internet company. Successful internet companies are created by entrepreneurs and programmers, not by government bureaucrats.
France calls for EU to regulate Web giants to counter dominance
France is pushing for the European Union to regulate global internet companies like Google, Amazon.com, and Facebook more aggressively, to counter their growing dominance over online commerce and services.
In an interview published by Liberation newspaper on Thursday, France’s minister for the digital economy, Fleur Pellerin, said Europe needed new regulatory powers to intervene much earlier, to level the playing field in the internet economy and allow the emergence of alternatives in Europe to U.S. Web giants.
She said Europe needed to be able to act quickly, as soon as problems are identified, rather than getting tied up in lengthy and costly disputes that did nothing to help consumers.
“The current tools of competition law are totally unsuited to the fast-changing world of the Internet,” Pellerin said in the interview conducted in French. “To get out of this impasse, Europe needs a regulatory authority to act on an ex-ante basis, as soon as conflicts and abuse emerge on the part of internet platforms.”