In a sign of the Internet's growing importance in the political world, the Republican Party's official 2012 platform includes an entire section dedicated to protecting Internet freedom.
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The language was included after a push from tech-savvy Republicans including Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), a main opponent of SOPA, and from outside groups. Some Democrats are also pushing for their own party platform, which will be revealed shortly, to include language on Internet freedom.
"This is a big victory for the Internet: lawmakers abiding by this language would have opposed both SOPA and CISPA," said David Segal, executive director of Demand Progress, a progressive political action committee that's spearheaded efforts to include Internet freedom in both parties' platforms. "It's important for politicians to know that if they act contrary to these Internet freedom principles, they'll risk the wrath of their party's most committed activists. Democrats should act quickly if they want to keep up, and if they don't want to lose their position as the party of the [Internet]."
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The Republican stance mirrors the party's views on other issues: They view the Internet as a space that thrives when unregulated, and believe in removing government regulations like net neutrality rules. Echoing conservative values, the party argues that the private sector can best regulate networks and protect users' privacy.
"The Internet has unleashed innovation, enabled growth, and inspired freedom more rapidly and extensively than any other technological advance in human history," reads the "Protecting Internet Freedom" section of the platform. "Its independence is its power. The Internet offers a communications system uniquely free from government intervention."
The GOP also attacks "legacy regulation" that interferes with "new and disruptive technologies such as mobile delivery of voice video data." That's likely a thinly veiled shot at legacy carrier AT&T, which has been criticized for planning to restrict customers' use of Apple's FaceTime video chat service over 3G and 4G networks.
Republicans also officially responded to whispers that some members of the International Telecommunications Union, the United Nations body which facilitates international communications, may push for a reconfiguration of Internet governance at a meeting this December. The Republican Party officially opposes "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 oppose any diplomatic efforts that could result in giving the United Nations unprecedented control over the Internet," reads the platform. "International regulatory control over the open and free Internet would have disastrous consequences for the United States and the world."
On data privacy, the Republicans seem more concerned with violations on the part of the government while they trust private businesses to do the right thing with minimal oversight.
The party platform calls for "full constitutional protection" from "government overreach" of personal data, and believe that users should "retain the right to control the use of their data by third parties," while adding that "the only way to safeguard or improve these systems is through the private sector."
Finally, a separate section of the platform calls for "Making the Internet Family Friendly" through greater enforcement of already existing local pornography laws. In 2007, Mitt Romney suggested that every new computer be sold with a pornography filter.
"The Internet must be made safe for children," reads the platform. "We call on service providers to exercise due care to ensure that the Internet cannot become a safe haven for predators while respecting First Amendment rights. We urge active prosecution against child pornography, which is closely linked to the horrors of human trafficking. Current laws on all forms of pornography and obscenity need to be vigorously enforced."
Should Internet freedom be a partisan issue? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Image Credit: Alex Fitzpatrick
This story originally published on Mashable here.