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Making It Legal to Tweet For Investors

The Wall Street Journal

Op-Ed – John Berlau

November 4, 2011

In rare bipartisan fashion, Congress moves to update outdated securities laws for the Facebook age.

‘Tweet for Jobs.” So says a section of Barack Obama’s campaign website encouraging the public to use social networks to lobby Congress for passage of the American Jobs Act. For years already, savvy politicians have demonstrated how social networking can bring people together and raise money. “Crowdfunding” has also enabled many causes to mobilize funds and supporters. But try following their cue in the business world and you might just be breaking the law.

It’s common to have hundreds or even thousands of “friends” on Facebook, “connections” on LinkedIn and “followers” on Twitter. Although such networks provide great opportunities for entrepreneurs, securities laws make it virtually illegal to ask members of a social network to invest small amounts in a microenterprise.

The good news: A package of common-sense bills that passed the House overwhelmingly Thursday night would give securities laws an update for the Facebook age. These bills are obvious boons to the economy, which is why they’ve attracted much more bipartisan backing than Washington tends to offer these days.