- How to stream WWE’s Clash of Champions 2019 Saturday 8:00 PM
- How ‘F*ck off Scotland’ became a Scottish rallying cry amid Brexit madness Saturday 6:28 PM
- A Missouri officer resigned after his Islamophobic Facebook posts surfaced Saturday 5:08 PM
- Adding ‘Triggered’ to stock photos of white men creates Netflix comedy special thumbnails Saturday 3:10 PM
- New restaurant in New York has a seriously unfortunate name: ‘Qanoon’ Saturday 1:38 PM
- These are the 10 best ‘Star Wars’ ships Saturday 12:41 PM
- Google Maps helped solve a decades-old missing persons case Saturday 12:27 PM
- Teen who plotted deadly swatting prank over Call of Duty argument gets prison time Saturday 11:58 AM
- RIP to the real star of ‘Stranger Things’: Steve Harrington’s mullet Saturday 11:04 AM
- People are sharing their wholesome stories with #Hey19YearOldMe Saturday 9:20 AM
- Review: The Joule is a pricey, sleek, easy-to-use entry into sous vide Saturday 8:00 AM
- How to stream Saints vs. Rams in NFL Week 2 action Saturday 8:00 AM
- How to stream Cowboys vs. Redskins in Week 2 action Saturday 7:30 AM
- How to stream Steelers vs. Seahawks in Week 2 NFL action Saturday 7:30 AM
- Netflix’s ‘Unbelievable’ examines the nature of victimhood and the long road to justice Saturday 7:30 AM
Are fake candidate websites the new political attack ads?
GOP’s newfound Web savvy has taken the form of a campaign program that’s ethically questionable and intensely negative.
BY MEGHAN NEAL
Republican politicians finally figured out how to use the Internet as a campaign tool, and they’re really proud of themselves. Unfortunately, the GOP’s newfound Web savvy has taken the form of a campaign program that’s ethically questionable, intensely negative, and may or may not be against the law.
The National Republican Congressional Committee created a spate of fake websites for Democratic candidates that at first glance look like normal, legit sites, but then rip into the candidate in the text. The faux sites also have donation forms that send funds to the NRCC. There are several fake microsites up now, and the committee says it’s buying up URLs to create even more.
Screenshot of NRCC-sponsored fake candidate site for John Lewis
So is this shit even legal? It’s not an easy thing to answer. The spoof sites teeter on the fine line between parody and fraud, and the devil is in the details of the election law. According to Federal Election Commission regulations, political groups can’t use a candidate’s name in a “special project”—like a website—unless it “clearly and unambiguously shows opposition to the named candidate.”
In other words, if it’s totally obvious the site is just a digital attack ad and a poor excuse for a joke, it’s fair game. If not—say, if someone actually donates money to the NRCC thinking that they’re giving it to the Democratic candidate—that could constitute fraud. Oh and guess what, that already happened, to this Florida man who was duped into contributing funds to the NRCC by a fake candidate site. The Republican committee refunded the money.
The trouble is that determining whether something is clear and unambiguous is subjective as hell. Naturally, right-wingers are saying the website trick is incredibly clever and obviously just a ruse, and they’re just outplaying Democrats. The left, on the other hand, claims the sites are confusing to voters, which violates FEC rules.
The NRCC is targeting swing districts with vulnerable Democratic congressional candidates.
Where are the nonpartisan experts in this? “The law seems pretty clear to me and the sites along these lines that I’ve looked at the past few months seem to clearly violate Federal Election Commission regulations,” Paul S. Ryan of the Campaign Legal Center said in an interview with Time. “In my view it is not the case that these websites clearly and unambiguously show opposition. On the contrary the URLs of these websites would lead a reasonable viewer to think the websites are supporting the candidate.”
Election law attorney Joseph M. Birkenstock told Talking Points Memo it’s not obvious these are opposition sites. “This is different. This is the first time I’ve seen one where they use a banner where by its own terms is actually express advocacy on behalf of that candidate,” he said. “One word at the end of the line contradicts the banner and contradicts the URL.”
Read the full story on Motherboard | Photo via Ann Kirkpatrick