Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Comparing McCain vs. Obama on Internet Issues...

For netizens, several policy issues will strongly influence their presidential vote this November. Net neutrality, copyright reform, public/municipal wi-fi, bandwidth caps, protecting children from sexual predators, and online privacy are all prominent on the agenda. So where do the candidates stand?

Barack Obama makes clear his stances on the issues, going so far as to write a "white paper" devoted entirely to technology proposals. In it, he states his unequivocal support for net neutrality and the preservation of an "open" internet. Additionally, he calls for more diversity in media ownership and, on the issue of protecting children from sexual predators, he does not view regulation as the solution, but rather giving parents the tools and skills needed to control what their children see and what online activities they engage in, also proposing to strengthen enforcement and penalties for violators. He similarly takes an enforcement-focused position when it comes to online privacy, wanting to hold government and businesses more accountable and stepping up the FCC's budget for enforcement. Finally, Obama seeks to enhance E-government services, opening up government by promoting citizen participation in decision-making.

Overall, Obama's central themes are openness and transparency - two core Internet ideologies.

John McCain, on the other hand, emphasizes a libertarian approach towards minimal governmental regulation - which certainly embodies another core Internet ideology. As summed up on Ars Technica, McCain calls for promoting investment and innovation in technology, including boosting funding for research and development (R & D) programs. He also supports measures that would create a highly skilled workforce through a combination of education, tax, and immigration policies. Finally, "employing a light regulatory touch and respecting open markets" is cited as the guiding policy principle, following the logic that misregulation can impede innovation.

What makes this race interesting from the netizen's perspective is that both Obama and McCain have embraced different (and often competing) Internet values - minimal governmental interference on the one hand; openness and transparency on the other.

As we get closer to the November election, The Nerfherder will post its first ever endorsement of a political candidate, based primarily on this Internet-centric point-of-view. In the meantime, let's see how much McCain and Obama pay lip service to these issues and allow their ideas to evolve. Stay tuned.
  

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