This year’s official Democratic Party Platform, released late Monday night, includes a section on Internet freedom — making 2012 the first year that both major political parties have done so.
Tucked into a larger category of “advancing universal values,” the Internet freedom section states that “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.”
The platform goes on to argue that the Obama administration has worked to strike a balance between preserving online intellectual property while also allowing Internet users to enjoy online privacy — The White House opposed the Stop Online Piracy Act in part because it believed the bill didn’t reach that balance.
“The administration has built partnerships to support an Internet that is secure and reliable and that is respectful of U.S. intellectual property, free flow of information, and privacy,” it reads.
Different Parties, Different Approaches
While both parties have made history by including Internet freedom in their official platforms, their approaches are much different. Republicans stress the need for less government regulation of the Internet and technology companies, trusting them to preserve users’ privacy or else be punished by the market. Meanwhile, the Obama administration has supported government regulation in terms of net neutrality and proactively protecting Americans’ online privacy with the Internet Privacy Bill of Rights and Do Not Track options.
Rep. Darrell Issa, a prominent Republican lawmaker and a leader on technology policy in his party, previously told Mashable that he would welcome Internet freedom language in the Democratic platform.
“I believe broadly that the Republican party is the party of small government and liberty, but I also believe that if selected Democrats get it, then absolutely we couldn’t do better than that,” said Issa. “When you look at protecting the Internet, it can’t be done by any one party.”
Republicans, however, also used their 2012 party platform to thrash the Obama administration for what they argue is its failure to expand broadband access and for its support of net neutrality. The Democrats took the opportunity to respond to those criticisms within its platform.
“We will ensure that America has a 21st century digital infrastructure –- robust wired and wireless broadband capability, a smarter electrical grid, and upgraded information technology infrastructure in key sectors such as health care and education,” reads the Democratic platform. “President Obama has committed to ensuring that 98 percent of the country has access to high-speed wireless broadband Internet access. We are finding innovative ways to free up wireless spectrum and are building a state-of-the-art nationwide, interoperable, public safety network.”
Common Ground: Multi-Stakeholder Model
Democrats and Republicans do find some common ground on Internet policy: they join one another in supporting the multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance.
“To preserve the Internet as a platform for commerce, debate, learning, and innovation in the 21st century, we successfully negotiated international Internet policymaking principles, support the current multi-stakeholder approach to Internet governance, and oppose the extension of intergovernmental controls over the Internet,” reads the Democrats’ platform. The Republican platform has similar language.
Both parties are responding to whispers that some members of the International Telecommunications Union, the United Nations body responsible for regulating international communications, may call for the shift of Internet governance away from organizations close to the United States, such as ICANN, during a meeting scheduled for December.
Is it important to you that both parties have included Internet freedom in their official platform?
Here’s the letter from four Democrats, including Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), urging the party chair to put Internet freedom in the platform:
Read more of Mashable’s coverage of the Democratic National Convention: