The FEC is full of FUD

Ars Technica: Followup: The FEC, FUD, and the blogpocalypse, Round II. Meant to post this yesterday as a followup to my earlier comments on the FEC’s commissioner. This is the other shoe, how it looks from the perspective of a Democrat, Ellen Weintraub, on the commission:

Reports of a Federal Election Commission plot to “crack down” on blogging and e-mail are wildly exaggerated. First of all, we’re not the speech police. We don’t tell private citizens what they can or cannot say, on the Internet or anywhere else. The FEC regulates campaign finance. There’s got to be some money involved, or it’s out of our jurisdiction.

Second, let’s get the facts straight. Congress, in the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, limited how one can pay for communications that are coordinated with political campaigns, including any form of “general public political advertising.” The commission issued a regulation defining those communications to exempt anything transmitted over the Internet. A judge struck down that regulation as inconsistent with the law. So now we’re under a judicial mandate to consider whether anything short of a blanket exemption that will do. For example, can paid advertisements on the Web, when coordinated with a particular campaign, be considered an in-kind contribution to that campaign? Context is important, and the context here has everything to do with paid advertising, and nothing to do with individuals blogging and sending e-mails.

Third, anyone who says they know what this proposed regulation will address must be clairvoyant, because the commissioners have yet to consider even a draft of the document that will set out the scope of any such rule…

So that’s interesting. Going after bloggers isn’t an option, but going after paid advertising is. What about going after paid bloggers?

Enough winter.

We got about five additional inches of mixed snow and ice yesterday and last night. This was just after a day or two of warmer weather that allowed me to briefly glimpse my lawn again. Now I have to get the snowblower out one more time…

At least it’s just water coming from the sky, not ash. Even with all this snow, I’d much rather have sunny days like the one that we have today than the months of uninterrupted damp gloom that we had in Kirkland. Although by now we would have started to see our spring flowers… sigh.

The B-school admissions case: Sloan drops another shoe

Boston Globe: MIT says it won’t admit hackers. There have been a few developments since I wrote about this case yesterday, and this is the big one. There have also been some questions raised about a few points in the case. Philip Greenspun points out how ridiculous it is to call something this easy a “hack”—I agree. It’s more like an exploit. That doesn’t make it any more justifiable, of course. That’s maybe the hardest part of this case—where is the line?

As I wrote in response to a comment on yesterday’s entry, there is no hard and fast line on cases of unauthorized access like this, because I’m curious about how systems work too and have been known to tinker with URL strings. That’s why I looked at the “exploit” instructions before I made my judgment call. If it had been a simple matter of substituting a login ID and PIN into the URL string, I might have felt differently. The fact that a prospective user of this “exploit” would have to dig a hidden value out of the source of the form should have tipped off the prospect that “hey, maybe I shouldn’t do this.”

I want future Sloanies to be smart enough not only to apply an “exploit” like this, but to understand that there may be consequences if they do it.