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Unpublished Paper
Yes We Can!: The Significance of the Citizens United Decision, the Role of Citizen Journalists and the Social Network in Political Campaign Finance
ExpressO (2012)
  • Melissa J. Roca, American University Washington College of Law
Abstract
Yes We Can!: The Significance of the Citizens United Decision, the Role of Citizen Journalists and the Social Network in Political Campaign Finance. Part I: Introduction The explosion of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter has added a new dimension to the exchange and distribution of information. The dissemination of news, formerly discharged by those with professional and ethical training, is now occurring between citizens with no formal media training. These new “reporters” on the social network,” broadly referred to as “citizen journalists,” are members of the public that play a contributory role in researching, reporting, and publicizing news and information. These new reporters and the social networks comprise a “Fifth Estate:” reporters who lack formal schooling or the ethical and moral component of any established journalism curriculum, and who use social networks that reach more eyes and ears than traditional media ever could. Social networks are powerful forces that could pose serious social, political, personal and legal problems if left unbridled and in the hands of these citizen journalists. A particularly important and timely issue confronts the “social network” debate as the presidential election race commences. The 5-4 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission lifts regulations on corporations regarding campaign contributions. What role, if any, will corporations participating in the social network play in the political process? Without adequate regulation over social media by the FEC, it is feasible that corporations will flood the social media with partisan ads, reaching masses of people, completely subverting the McCain-Feingold campaign reform law. Unfair use of money in the election process may contaminate democracy and as a result, many are asking whether the “social network” demands regulation. If there is a Fifth Estate, it brings dissemination of information “full circle,” that is, back to the individual reporter – the pamphleteer – of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth century, bypassing the news and press organizations that have been carefully crafted over the last 150 years. This paper will argue that the Citizens United decision undermines many of the most basic campaign finance objectives and leaves the regulatory scheme ill-prepared to monitor undue influence in campaign contributions from new mediums, in particular from social networks. Part II will explore the background of traditional media, the role of politicians in media and the parallel evolution of journalism and campaign finance law. It will also discuss the birth of digital media, the increased participation of citizen journalists and subsequent regulations. Finally, this section will discuss the sweeping decision in Citizens United v. FEC. Part III will analyze the use of social media networks by politicians to promote political campaigning and advertising and the implications of regulation in light of the Citizens United decision. Part IV will suggest policy recommendations regarding corporate election contributions that are raised through social media networks, and argue that these contributions should be regulated while assuring that the free speech rights of citizen journalists on these social networks not be violated. Part V will conclude this paper by suggesting that regardless of these recommendations, ensuring free speech, equal access, and limiting excessive influence by the wealthy are matters that will continue to plague American democracy.
Keywords
  • Media Law
Disciplines
Publication Date
March 4, 2012
Citation Information
Melissa J. Roca. "Yes We Can!: The Significance of the Citizens United Decision, the Role of Citizen Journalists and the Social Network in Political Campaign Finance" ExpressO (2012)
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/melissa_roca/1/