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Democratic Party platform supports 'internet freedom,' sidesteps net neutrality

Democratic Party platform supports 'internet freedom,' sidesteps net neutrality


The Democratic Party platform for 2012 includes provisions for internet privacy and openness, but does not address net neutrality concerns.

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US Capitol 1 (Verge Stock)
US Capitol 1 (Verge Stock)

With the US Democratic National Convention underway, the party has released its 2012 platform, including positions on "internet freedom" — a term that's been used to mean anything from free online speech to anti-net neutrality provisions. Several Democratic representatives have urged their party to add pro-open internet positions, and Republicans already addressed the issue in their latest platform. With Republicans having defined online freedom as freedom from "legacy regulation," what do the Democrats have to say?

Republicans condemned current net neutrality laws, but the Democratic platform all but ignores them. While referencing the "free flow of information" and supporting the general idea of online commerce, there's no mention of the Open Internet rules the White House has supported in the past. This doesn't mean the Democrats will oppose net neutrality, but it does seem to be less of a priority than other issues.

Democrats don't oppose net neutrality, but it's barely mentioned

Outside this, the Democratic platform echoes Barack Obama's response to questions on Reddit. "President Obama is strongly committed to protecting an open internet that fosters investment, innovation, creativity, consumer choice, and free speech, unfettered by censorship or undue violations of privacy," it reads, recapping some of the more prominent changes in network policy. That includes the Privacy Bill of Rights and Do Not Track, which has been implemented over several sites and browsers in the past year. It also references the FCC's efforts to expand broadband connectivity and gives a nod to freedom abroad. "The Obama administration has led the world to recognize and defend internet freedom — the freedom of expression, assembly, and association online for people everywhere — through coalitions of countries and by empowering individuals with innovative technologies."

Both parties emphasize cybersecurity and intellectual property enforcement

Despite their differences otherwise, the parties agree that current US-centric bodies should control the structures underlying the internet. Democrats "support the current multi-stakeholder approach to internet governance, and oppose the extension of intergovernmental controls over the internet," language that's almost identical to the Republican plank. Both parties also emphasized the importance of cybersecurity measures and protecting intellectual property, though the Democratic platform tied it explicitly to internet policy while Republicans focused on foreign relations.

The 2008 Democratic platform included references to improving internet access and maintaining privacy, as well as a pledge to maintain its "traditional openness." This year, it's been expanded and updated with some more specific positions, from Do Not Track to intellectual property enforcement. Even so, we likely won't know how either party really plans to implement its positions, and what is feasible, until after the election.