If you haven’t noticed the political season is on in the United States, you will soon. The Blogosphere will soon be overrun with political blogs and blogs promoting US presidential and other candidates.
For me, this is a time when freedom of speech and objectivity in journalism clashes with the blogging spirit. It’s a mess no matter how you look at it.
Here’s a fact that may surprise you: Candidates have a legal right to lie to voters just about as much as they want.
That comes as a shock to many. After all, consumers have been protected for decades from false ads for commercial products. Shouldn’t there be “truth-in-advertising” laws to protect voters, too?
Turns out, that’s a tougher question than you might imagine.
For one thing, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says, “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech,” and that applies to candidates for office especially. And secondly, in the few states that have enacted laws against false political ads, they haven’t been very effective.
The article continues to define the laws which protect or don’t protect consumers from false advertising in terms of freedom of speech and sums it up with:
Laws protecting consumers from false advertising of products are enforced pretty vigorously…But there’s no such truth-in-advertising law governing federal candidates. They can legally lie about almost anything they want. In fact, the Federal Communications Act even requires broadcasters who run candidate ads to show them uncensored, even if the broadcasters believe their content to be offensive or false.
With the coming onslaught of politically-driven blogs, understand that political candidates can lie with little recourse, except the slam from media and public opinion if caught. Once they are in office, things change, but until then, anything goes.
Blog reader beware.