Personal Democracy Plus Our premium content network. LEARN MORE You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

'Internet Freedom' Is a Republican Platform Plank; Democrats To Have a Policy, Too

BY Sarah Lai Stirland | Tuesday, August 28 2012

The concept of "Internet freedom" is expected to become part of the Republican party platform for the first time on Tuesday when the party's platform committee votes to ratify language that it had drafted earlier last week. The move addresses the recent demands of dozens of Internet activists and groups for both parties to adopt language addressing the issue, and illustrates the enduring impact of the movement created by the broad protests against the Stop Online Piracy Act in January.

The platform committee was scheduled to approve the following language as part of its official party platform sometime on Tuesday:

Protecting Internet Freedom
The Internet has unleashed innovation, enabled growth, and inspired freedom more rapidly and extensively than any other technological advance in human history. Its independence is its power. The Internet offers a communications system uniquely free from government intervention. We will remove regulatory barriers that protect outdated technologies and business plans from innovation and competition, while preventing legacy regulation from interfering with new and disruptive technologies such as mobile delivery of voice video data as they become crucial components of the Internet ecosystem. We will resist any effort to shift control away from the successful multi-stakeholder approach of Internet governance and toward governance by international or other intergovernmental organizations. We will ensure that personal data receives full constitutional protection from government overreach and that individuals retain the right to control the use of their data by third parties; the only way to safeguard or improve these systems is through the private sector.

The language appears to be a little less detailed than what was reported by the the conservative outlet the Daily Caller on Friday. Yet however vague it is, the party has for the first time officially articulated a viewpoint on the role that the Internet plays in our society, and its relationship to the government. While Internet policy wasn't part of the Democrats' official platform in 2008, then candidate Obama had a fully-articulated policy on net neutrality, which his administration has implemented. House Republicans have strongly opposed that policy, and the Republican party platform explicitly criticizes the administration for that policy, saying that it's trying to "micromanage telecom as if it were a railroad network."

The document also criticizes the administration for its record on broadband rollout and the lack of inventorying of federal agency spectrum to be auctioned off for "taxpayers' benefit."

And also as might be expected, the language focuses on less regulation, protecting the online ecosystem of innovation, and protecting the current multi-stakeholder system of governing the Internet, echoing the statements of various members of Congress and Federal Communications Commissioner Robert McDowell earlier this year when hearings were held on the potential impact of a December meeting of the International Telecommunications Union.

The last part concerning the protection of "personal data" from government overreach also reflects the ideas expressed in the libertarian-leaning Campaign for Liberty's manifesto, which was released to Buzzfeed in July.

And finally, the document says: "With special recognition of the role university technology centers are playing in attracting private investment to the field, we will replace the administration's Luddite approach to technological progress with a regulatory partnership that will keep this country the world leader in technology and telecommunications."

As a plank of the Republican party platform, the language can be understood as the party's overall take on the concept of "Internet freedom," which is a vague concept that was floated by many of the anti-SOPA and PIPA activists earlier this year but which have been criticized by the free market group TechFreedom.

Matthew Lesser, a-29-year-old state representative from Connecticut who is a member of the Democrats' platform committee, told techPresident via e-mail that his party will also make Internet freedom part of its platform.

"While the Democrats have not yet publicly released their platform, the platform will include a strong plank in support of Internet freedom," he said. "The Democratic platform will highlight the Obama Administration's strong record of supporting Internet freedom -- the freedom of expression, assembly, and association online for people everywhere. The platform will also support the Administration in opposing the extension of intergovernmental controls over the Internet."

The moves can also be seen as a play for financial support from Silicon Valley and other hubs of tech business. In 2012 alone, TechNet, the Silicon Valley association of tech company CEOs, angel investors and venture capitalists, has arranged more than 40 fund-raising trips for members of Congress to the area.

In 2008, Silicon Valley overwhelmingly supported Barack Obama's presidential bid. But campaign finance records also show that House Speaker John Boehner's also been conducting successful fundraising campaigns throughout the region in the past year.

David Segal, executive director of Demand Progress, who has been organizing the drive to push the parties to adopt the language, said: "The mere adoption of such language is indicative of, and helps further, the mainstreaming of Internet issues. It creates another tool by which activists to hold politicians accountable -- its powerful to be able to tell a lawmaker that he or she is in danger of violating their own party's stated principles, and it makes it clear to pols that they'd be risking the wrath of their party's most active members if they don't support Internet freedom and privacy."

"I think it's a positive sign that this plank focuses on something that we can agree on, such as a communications system free from government intervention, privacy, and protection of innovation," said Kevin Bankston, senior counsel and director of the Center for Democracy and Technology's Free Expression project, referring specifically to the portion of the document that addresses Internet freedom.

This post has been updated

News Briefs

RSS Feed today >

Brazilian President Signs Internet Bill of Rights Into Law at NetMundial

Earlier today Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff sanctioned Marco Civil, also called the Internet bill of rights, during the global Internet governance event, NetMundial, in Brazil.

GO

tuesday >

Ruck.us Reboots As a Candidate Digital Toolkit That's a Bit Too Like Democracy.com

Ruck.us launched with big ambitions and star appeal, hoping to crack the code on how to get millions of people to pool their political passions through their platform. When that ambition stalled, its founder Nathan Daschle--son of the former Senator--decided to pivot to offering political candidates an easy-to-use free web platform for organizing and fundraising. Now the new Ruck.us is out from stealth mode, entering a field already being served by competitors like NationBuilder, Salsa Labs and Democracy.com. And strangely enough, Ruck.us seems to want its early users to ask Democracy.com for help. GO

Armenian Legislators: You Can Be As Anonymous on the 'Net As You Like—Until You Can't

A proposed bill in Armenia would make it illegal for media outlets to include defamatory remarks by anonymous or fake sources, and require sites to remove libelous comments within 12 hours unless they identify the author.

GO

monday >

The Good Wife Looks for the Next Snowden and Outwits the NSA

Even as the real Edward Snowden faces questions over his motives in Russia, another side of his legacy played out for the over nine million viewers of last night's The Good Wife, which concluded its season long storyline exploring NSA surveillance. In the episode titled All Tapped Out, one young NSA worker's legal concerns lead him to becoming a whistle-blower, setting off a chain of events that allows the main character, lawyer Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies), and her husband, Illinois Governor Peter Florrick (Chris Noth), to turn the tables on the NSA using its own methods. GO

The Expanding Reach of China's Crowdsourced Environmental Monitoring Site, Danger Maps

Last week billionaire businessman Jack Ma, founder of the e-commerce company Alibaba, appealed to his “500 million-strong army” of consumers to help monitor water quality in China. Inexpensive testing kits sold through his company can be used to measure pH, phosphates, ammonia, and heavy metal levels, and then the data can be uploaded via smartphone to the environmental monitoring site Danger Maps. Although the initiative will push the Chinese authorities' tolerance for civic engagement and activism, Ethan Zuckerman has high hopes for “monitorial citizenship” in China.

GO

The 13 Worst Bits of Russia's Current and Maybe Future Internet Legislation

It appears that Russia is on the brink of passing still more repressive Internet regulations. A new telecommunications bill that would require popular blogs—those with 3,000 or more visits a day—to join a government registry and conform to government-mandated standards is expected to pass this week. What follows is a list of the worst bits of both proposed and existing Russian Internet law. Let us know in the comments or on Twitter if we missed anything.

GO

Transparency and Public Shaming: Pakistan Tackles Tax Evasion

In Pakistan, where only one in 200 citizens files their income tax return, authorities published a directory of taxpayers' details for the first time. Officials explained the decision as an attempt to shame defaulters into paying up.

GO

wednesday >

Facebook Seeks Approval as Financial Service in Ireland. Is the Developing World Next?

On April 13 the Financial Times reported that Facebook is only weeks away from being approved as a financial service in Ireland. Is this foray into e-money motivated by Facebook's desire to conquer the developing world before other corporate Internet giants do? Maybe.

GO

The Rise and Fall of Iran's “Blogestan”

The robust community of Iranian bloggers—sometimes nicknamed “Blogestan”—has shrunk since its heyday between 2002 – 2010. “Whither Blogestan,” a recent report from the University of Pennsylvania's Iran Media Program sought to find out how and why. The researchers performed a web crawling analysis of Blogestan, survey 165 Persian blog users, and conducted 20 interviews with influential bloggers in the Persian community. They found multiple causes of the decline in blogging, including increased social media use and interference from authorities.

GO

More