In regelmäßigen Abständen stellt Amerika wählt renommierten Wahlkampfexperten fünf Fragen zu einem aktuellen Anlass. Für die erste Ausgabe von „5 Fragen an…“ hat sich Nina Keim mit Ben Scott über Netzpolitik im US-Wahlkampf unterhalten.
1. What role does the issue of Internet Freedom play in the 2012 election campaign?
Internet Freedom is not an issue that people go to the polls to vote for, but both parties have embraced Internet Freedom on their party platforms. The parties clearly think that it is an important part of the values they want to convey to the voters. Internet Freedom has become a “value issue” which demonstrates the commitment to a wide variety of policies that go back to the core belief of freedom of expression.
2. To what extent do the Obama/Biden and Romney/Ryan ticket differ in their approaches to Internet Freedom?
You can approach the issue of Internet Freedom as an international issue and as a domestic issue. Internationally, the definition of Internet Freedom is essentially the advocacy for human rights in the digital age. For both parties, there is little difference on their views on Internet Freedom as an international issue. When applying Internet Freedom in the domestic context, it becomes a bit more complicated. There is a difference of opinion as to whether large commercial enterprises should be able to dominate particular market segments and control the Internet for their own financial purposes.
The Democratic party platform and the Obama administration have been pretty consistent in resisting the concentration of commercial control over the Internet in the same way they would resist the concentration of governmental control over the Internet. The Republicans have been less consistent. They are likely to say they are against governmental control of the Internet but OK with commercial control. The majority of the Republican Party has been on the side of permitting commercial control over market segments even if it means constraints of the free marketplace of ideas.
3. In 2011, Internet activists worldwide stood up to protest against SOPA and PIPA. Would you say that a similar legislation could be expected from the Republican ticket if they were elected?
SOPA/PIPA was a major change in politics of intellectual property debates and showed that there is a new political player on the table. I think it will be a while before that kind of legislation will be introduced again. However, the issue is not going away and the problems that both sides perceive are not going away either. Essentially, SOPA/PIPA did not result in a productive solution on one side or the other.
4. In 2008, the Obama campaign received financial support from Silicon Valley. Is the financial backing of Tech companies a decisive factor for this year’s election?
In 2008 it was less about Silicon Valley companies writing checks to the Obama campaign or to supportive groups. It was more about wealthy individuals in northern California who made their money in the tech industry becoming engaged in the Obama campaign. I am not sure about the extent to which they have increased or repeated their involvement in 2012. As 2008 has shown, the Democratic Party campaign generally gets more small-donor donations than the Republican Party.
5. What did you think about Clint Eastwood’s appearance at the GOP convention making a case that not entire Hollywood is supportive of the Obama campaign?
I find it very ironic. During the Super Bowl 2012 there was an advertisement by Chrysler featuring Clint Eastwood as voice over. The clear implication of the ad was that the White House had saved the American auto industry, which was good for America and enabling the country to build better cars. Karl Rove and other GOP advocates came out saying that the ad was absolutely unacceptable since it featured Clint Eastwood quietly giving his endorsement to the Obama campaign. Having Clint Eastwood now actually saying that he is supporting the Republican campaign shows how empty all of this posturing symbolism is when it comes to celebrities endorsing campaigns.
Ben Scott is a Senior Advisor to the Open Technology Institute at the New America Foundation in Washington DC and a Visiting Fellow at the Stiftung Neue Verantwortung in Berlin. Previously, he served as policy advisor for innovation to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and led led the Washington office for Free Press.