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GOP platform blasts Obama on tech policy

Delegates gather during the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla.

Delegates gather during the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla. // Jae C. Hong/AP

Republicans in Tampa on Tuesday called for protections of Internet freedom, less telecom regulation, and family-friendly online content in a party platform that also criticized President Obama’s “Luddite approach” to technology policy.

Obama has often been cast as a tech-savvy president who carries his own smartphone and understands the fast-paced world of technology. That’s not the way Republicans see it.

In their platform approved at the Republican National Convention, they accuse Obama of keeping the tech and telecom industry—the “most vibrant sector of the American economy”—shackled by a 19th-century regulatory system, as well as controversial net-neutrality rules.

“An industry that invested $66 billion in 2011 alone needs, and deserves, a more modern relationship with the federal government for the benefit of consumers here and worldwide,” the document states.

Besides decrying domestic regulation, the platform also calls for protections for Internet freedom, a stance advocated by businesses as well as liberals and libertarian Republicans such as Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky.

“We oppose any diplomatic efforts that could result in giving the United Nations unprecedented control over the Internet," the platform reads. “International regulatory control over the open and free Internet would have disastrous consequences for the United States and the world.” The authors go on to promise to “resist any effort to shift control away from the successful multi-stakeholder approach of Internet governance and toward governance by international or other intergovernmental organizations.”

In a section on cybersecurity, the platform largely echos the GOP stance that government agencies should not have the authority to set security standards for private businesses. Such arguments have stalled White House-backed legislation that would give the Homeland Security Department more authority over certain critical networks.

“The current administration’s laws and policies undermine what should be a collaborative relationship and put both the government and private entities at a severe disadvantage in proactively identifying potential cyberthreats,” the platform says. “The costly and heavy-handed regulatory approach by the current administration will increase the size and cost of the federal bureaucracy and harm innovation in cybersecurity.”

The platform takes a stance against any regulation of political speech on the Internet, as well as the now-defunct Fairness Doctrine, which required broadcasters to provide equal airtime to opposing views. The law had not been enforced since 1987 and was stricken from the books in 2011.

Additionally, Republicans urge enforcement of all laws governing child and other pornography, and they call on Internet providers to prevent the Web from becoming a “safe haven for predators” while respecting free speech. The platform also opposes any online gambling.

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