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Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for Internet Communication Disclaimers
On October 4, 2011, the Commission approved an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) concerning disclaimers on certain Internet communications. The Commission requests comments from the public, by November 14, 2011, on whether and how it should modify its rules regarding disclaimers on certain communications appearing on the Internet. The Commission does not anticipate that any final rule would become effective for the 2011-2012 election cycle.
While the term “public communication” does not usually include Internet communications, it does encompass communications placed for a fee on another person’s website. 11 CFR 100.26. Therefore, such communications are subject to disclaimer requirements as well.
For those communications requiring disclaimers, each disclaimer “must be presented in a clear and conspicuous manner, to give the reader, observer or, listener adequate notice of the identity” of the communication’s sponsor. 11 CFR 110.11(c)(1).
Certain communications are exempt from these general disclaimer requirements, such as bumper stickers, pins, buttons, pens and other small items upon which a disclaimer cannot be conveniently printed, known as the “small items exception.” Disclaimers are not required for other communications such as skywriting, water towers, apparel or other communications of such a nature where inclusion of a disclaimer would be impracticable, known as the “impracticable exception.”
Recent Developments Concerning Internet Ads
In another advisory opinion request, Facebook asked if its small, character-limited ads qualified for the small items or impracticable exceptions to the disclaimer requirements. The Commission could not approve an advisory opinion by the required four affirmative votes, and therefore could not provide an answer to Facebook.
All comments must be received in writing on or before November 14, 2011. Comments may be submitted electronically via the Commission’s website at http://www.fedc.gov/fosers. The public is encouraged to submit comments electronically to ensure timely receipt and consideration. Alternatively, paper comments may be submitted to Federal Election Commission, Attn: Amy Rothstein, Assistant General Counsel, 999 E Street, NW, Washington, DC, 20463. In order to be considered, all comments must include the full name and postal address of the commenter. The Commission will post the comments on its website at the conclusion of the comment period.
The full text of the ANPRM is available at: http://sers.fec.gov/fosers/viewreg.htm?regno=2011-02&docno=97168.
(Posted 10/14/11; By Isaac J. Baker)
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