Groups want two major US parties to support Internet 'freedom'

Several Internet activists ask Democrats and Republicans to add language to their party platforms

The Republican and Democratic parties in the U.S. should take a stand for Internet "freedom" during their upcoming national conventions, a group of Internet activists urged Monday.

More than 36,000 people have signed a petition, started by 'Net activist group Demand Progress in mid-August, calling on the two major parties to add Internet freedom language to their party platforms. Demand Progress reiterated its call for Internet freedom language in the platforms on Monday, a day before the Republican convention starts in Tampa, Florida. The Democratic convention is next week in Charlotte, North Carolina.

"The next two weeks will determine which party is the party of the 'Net," David Segal, executive director of Demand Progress, said in an email. "Internet start-ups, civil liberties groups, and Internet users generally will be paying close attention to who really represents us."

U.S. residents are becoming more concerned about threats to Internet freedom as their dependence on the Internet grows, Segal added. "It behooves both parties to demonstrate their support for that cause -- in their platforms, and in their legislative undertakings," he said. "If they fail to do so, the swelling number of Internet-savvy voters will start to look elsewhere."

The Internet freedom language proposed by Demand Progress and other groups is fairly general, and doesn't specifically mention net neutrality, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) or the controversial cybersecurity bills debated in Congress this year. Several of the groups pushing for the Internet freedom language opposed SOPA, the Protect IP Act (PIPA) and the cybersecurity bills.

"We ... urge political parties to explicitly adopt positions that protect and foster an open Internet that equally respects the rights of ordinary users, as well as the thousands of companies and organizations who rely on this platform everyday," the supporters of the Internet freedom language said in an open letter to the two parties. "We further urge American political parties to clearly reject efforts to censor the Internet and engage in unwarranted surveillance of its users -- and to do so in writing."

Other groups advocating the Internet freedom in the party platforms include the Center for Democracy and Technology, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Mozilla, Cheezburger.com and the Free Press Action Fund.

There are some indications that both parties are considering Internet language in their platforms. On Friday, the Daily Caller published what it called a leaked Internet freedom proposal for the Republican platform.

In addition, four Democratic lawmakers, Representatives Zoe Lofgren, Anna Eshoo and Doris Matsui, all from California, and Jared Polis of Colorado, have urged the Democratic Party to include Internet freedom language in their party's platform.

"We strongly recommend ensuring the platform includes this or similar language: 'The Democratic Party stands for global Internet freedom, the free flow of information online, a free and open Internet, and protection from online censorship and privacy violations,'" the four wrote to party leaders last Wednesday.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is grant_gross@idg.com.

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