American voters want to know where their country's two parties stand on issues surrounding the internet, and today, the Republican Party revealed a new internet freedom plank as part of its policy platform. Predictably, though, "free" isn’t a synonym for "neutral" — as The Washington Post points out, the document is talking about freedom of tech businesses from government regulation. The addition comes as the politics of the internet continue to command a higher share of the public's attention; for example, as President Obama’s AMA brought Reddit the highest amount of traffic it’s ever seen, the site’s co-founder Alexis Ohanian and others getting ready to hit the road to bring the discussion about the open internet to voters.
The GOP says it will prevent "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." The statement is clearly a reference to the FCC’s rules preserving net neutrality and how they are being challenged by the likes of AT&T; hardly a surprise given the party’s track record on the issue.
It also says it will resist moves toward internet governance "by international or other intergovernmental organizations" as well as "government outreach" that could threaten individuals’ "right to control the use of their data by third parties." In other words, the party doesn’t want the government regulating how companies treat individuals’ private data.
While the Democratic Party has yet to adopt an equivalent policy plank, President Obama did respond to a question about internet freedom in his aforementioned appearance on Reddit, although he didn't give many details. The full text of his answer is below:
"Internet freedom is something I know you all care passionately about; I do too. We will fight hard to make sure that the internet remains the open forum for everybody - from those who are expressing an idea to those to want to start a business. And although their will be occasional disagreements on the details of various legislative proposals, I won't stray from that principle - and it will be reflected in the platform."