Political Bloggers and Candidates Have a Legal Right to Lie

Filed as News on June 28, 2007 8:54 am

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.

I recently stumbled across an article written on the popular Fact Check site called False Ads – There Oughta Be a Law which applies even today:

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.

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  1. By GoingLikeSixty posted on June 28, 2007 at 10:06 am
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    Whoa. Spinning the first amendment to say it’s OK to lie is dead wrong.
    Political free speech is good – legal!
    Lying is bad – unethical – immoral, but not illegal.
    Commercial free speech is another matter entirely.

    Reply

  2. By Lorelle VanFossen posted on June 28, 2007 at 12:06 pm
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    Confusing issue, isn’t it. Either way, We The People get screwed. :D

    Reply

  3. By Brian Carnell posted on June 28, 2007 at 3:33 pm
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    Thank goodness this is the case. Otherwise pretty much every statement a politician made about his opponent would be sent up to some truth-deciding commission for ajudication.

    Would X’s budget proposal really require new taxes? Would we really want judges deciding those kind of things?

    I don’t think so.

    Reply

  4. By the man posted on June 28, 2007 at 5:23 pm
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    Is it possible to create a video with a “message” and still have it be funny? Apparently it is, as long as you hire the Reno 911 guys to make it. This video is one of four great new videos on

    DeclareYourself.com

    featuring two guys who represent “The Man,” telling young voters why it’s important that they NOT vote in next year’s election. So enjoy, laugh, and register to vote!

    Reply

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