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Editorial: Debate Questions About Tech and the Internet Still #Unasked

BY Andrew Rasiej | Tuesday, February 21 2012

GOP presidential debate, August 11, 2011. Source:

We created techPresident in 2007 in anticipation that some day we would actually elect a "Tech President" who understood the Internet was more than a "series of tubes" and who would usher in a new era of 21st century tech enabled policy to help them govern.

In the 2008 Presidential campaign, Candidate Obama's technology policy was considered and often touted as a major indicator for how a President Obama would govern. Disappointingly, many of those original tech-related policy ideas died once President Obama took office, even though a few, like selecting Aneesh Chopra as the first ever White House CTO, were in fact instituted.

Since 2008, Internet and mobile technology usage has continued to explode in importance not only in this country but around the world. Many social media sites and, of course, Facebook and Twitter, are now mainstream communication vehicles used by political parties, candidates, and activists to rally supporters, raise awareness, and even help take down dictators (think Mubarak) and legislation (think SOPA). So you would think that attention to technology policy and issues would have increased particularly during the current Presidential debate cycle.

Think again.

The Guardian's Citizens Agenda project, working with the Studio 20 New York University class taught by Jay Rosen, just released a comprehensive study of the GOP presidential debates of 2011-12. Of the 839 questions asked in the twenty debates that have already taken place, just four questions have been asked of the candidates that in any way touch on technology or the internet. There have been two about investment in green technology, one on incentives for green tech, and one--which came from a Twitter user--about the candidates' position on SOPA.

Considering how Internet is now a crucial platform for the world economy, I find this troubling and another indication that we are still electing 20th century politicians using 20th century tools like televised debates.

So, with a only a few debates left on the horizon, I'd like to suggest a few questions that I think would be revelatory if they were able to be inserted into the discussion. If you like them, just RT a link to this post along with the hashtag: #unasked. If you prefer to offer you own question(s) just tweet them using the same #unasked and they will be collected in a way we hope will get the attention of the debate organizers. (The "#unasked" hashtag is being promoted by The Guardian.)

They don't need to be about technology issues either. If you feel there has been a lack of attention during the debates on any other issue, use #unasked to help highlight what you think should be asked.

Here are my three #unasked questions:

1) Do voters have a right to know what data candidates and political parties are collecting on them and what happens to this data after the election?

2) Should American companies be free to sell surveillance and internet technologies globally even to totalitarian or non-democratic regimes?

3) How should America increase low cost access to high-speed broadband in order to all Americans to effectively compete in the 21st Century Internet economy?