Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Maryland law on website Internet ads raises question for sites: do you have to prove a negative?

Maryland is one of the first states to regulate online political advertising, according to a Washington Post Metro story on July 4, by Ovetta Wiggins and Tony Romm, “Md. Law on online political ads takes effect”.

The law apparently went into effect without (Republican) governor Larry Hogan’s signature, although the article is a bit unclear about this.
The law requires sites (or companies or persons owning the sites) with more than 100,000 unduplicated visitors per month to maintain a database of Maryland political ads.

Google stopped accepting Maryland state political ads June 29, so presumably they cannot appear on Adsense.

But remember, back in 2005, there was a lot of concern that even ordinary blogging (without ads) about political candidates could be viewed as untracked political contributions, according to McCain-Feingold. This concern died down.
Other states are considering similar laws, and Congress seems to backpedal, since the Supreme Court has reinforced the idea that paid political ads are protected speech, and a more conservative Court with Trump appointees will only reinforce that idea.
But it is a little disturbing that states could make record keeping laws for any website that can be visited from their states.  How can a blogger like me prove a negative, that I don’t take such ads?  Only because you have never seen them on any of my sites.  Is that good enough?

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