There will be no shortage of President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney talking about and debating the issues on TV in the coming months as we hurdle toward the election in November, but most of that will inevitably tend toward hot button topics and the refutation of slung mud. To get the candidates to offer unbroken and nuanced positions on less headline grabbing but still critical issues like climate change, Internet freedom and the food supply, Scientific American gave them both a 14-question questionnaire to fill out as they saw fit. The results are illuminating not just in terms of substance, but also style. Obama's responses are typically concise and hyper policy-specific whereas Romney often opts for the more verbose route (his lengthier responses are often padded with shots at his opponent). See the candidates answers to a question about Internet freedom below.
9. The Internet. The Internet plays a central role in both our economy and our society. What role, if any, should the federal government play in managing the Internet to ensure its robust social, scientific, and economic role?
A free and open Internet is essential component of American society and of the modern economy. I support legislation to protect intellectual property online, but any effort to combat online piracy must not reduce freedom of expression, increase cybersecurity risk, or undermine the dynamic, innovative global Internet. I also believe it is essential that we take steps to strengthen our cybersecurity and ensure that we are guarding against threats to our vital information systems and critical infrastructure, all while preserving Americans' privacy, data confidentiality, and civil liberties and recognizing the civilian nature of cyberspace.
It is not the role of any government to “manage” the Internet. The Internet has flourished precisely because government has so far refrained from regulating this dynamic and essential cornerstone of our economy. I would rely primarily on innovation and market forces, not bureaucrats, to shape the Internet and maximize its economic, social and scientific value.
Thanks to the non-governmental multi-stakeholder model, the Internet is — and always has been — open to all ideas and lawful commerce as well as bountiful private investment. Unfortunately, President Obama has chosen to impose government as a central gatekeeper in the broadband economy. His policies interfere with the basic operation of the Internet, create uncertainty, and undermine investors and job creators.
Specifically, the FCC’s "Net Neutrality" regulation represents an Obama campaign promise fulfilled on behalf of certain special interests, but ultimately a “solution” in search of a problem. The government has now interjected itself in how networks will be constructed and managed, picked winners and losers in the marketplace, and determined how consumers will receive access to tomorrow’s new applications and services. The Obama Administration’s overreaching has replaced innovators and investors with Washington bureaucrats.
In addition to these domestic intrusions, there are also calls for increased international regulation of the Internet through the United Nations. I will oppose any effort to subject the Internet to an unaccountable, innovation-stifling international regulatory regime. Instead, I will clear away barriers to private investment and innovation and curtail needless regulation of the digital economy.
Check out all 14 questions and the candidates' responses over at Scientific American.