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Tech Activists: Bernie Sanders Is Best Choice By Far for Internet Freedom; Trump Worst

Protesters at a 2014 net neutrality rally in Los Angeles. (Photo: Free Press/Flickr Creative Commons)

Protesters at a 2014 net neutrality rally in Los Angeles. (Photo: Free Press/Flickr Creative Commons)

Bernie Sanders is by far the best among all 2016 presidential candidates when it comes to protecting net neutrality and internet freedom and opposing mass surveillance and censorship, according to a newly-released voter guide from a leading tech advocacy group.

Free Press Action Fund’s “Internet 2016” voter guide graded the four remaining Republican and two Democrat candidates in seven categories, including internet censorship, openness, access, privacy and mass surveillance. Sanders received “positive” ratings in every category except encryption, in which he was graded “waffling” for his neutral comments on the ongoing dispute between Apple and the FBI.

Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton received “positive” marks for net neutrality, access, choice and competition but a “waffling” rating on encryption and “harmful” grades in censorship and mass surveillance for advocating social media censorship in the war against terrorism and for voting twice to enable National Security Agency (NSA) mass surveillance.

The four GOP candidates fared far worse. None received more than one “positive” grade—Ted Cruz for being one of only four Republican senators to vote for the surveillance-curbing USA Freedom Act and Marco Rubio for supporting legislation that would expand affordable wireless internet access. Donald Trump received “harmful” grades in all four categories in which he was rated—censorship, encryption, mass surveillance and net neutrality. Trump’s positions on the three remaining categories were rated “unknown.”

All four Republican candidates—and none of the Democrats—received at least one “unknown” rating, reflecting considerable ignorance of the issues at hand. Donald Trump demonstrated his lack of knowledge on net neutrality when he tweeted that “net neutrality is the Fairness Doctrine,” a decades-old Federal Communications Commission (FCC) policy mandating that radio and television broadcasters present information in a balanced manner. Net neutrality has nothing to do with that. Ted Cruz left even staunch conservatives scratching their heads and accusing the Texas senator of sheer ignorance after he proclaimed that “net neutrality is Obamacare for the internet.”

Free Press’ high marks for Sanders reflect the Vermont senator’s vigorous defense of a free and open internet and his staunch opposition to mass surveillance.

“It is absolutely essential that the Internet remain open and free of censorship or the chilling effects that result in self-censorship,” Sanders said in opposition to PIPA, a proposed 2011 anti-piracy law that would have given the government and corporations greater power to block access to sanctioned websites.

Sanders has also voiced concerns about industry consolidation, which reduces user choice and bolsters the power of the handful of corporations that control the majority of consumer content, and he believes internet service providers should treat all data equally instead of prioritizing certain websites or customers over others.

The self-described democratic socialist senator is also a dogged opponent of mass surveillance, having voted twice against the USA Patriot Act and against the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, which according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) “[gave] the National Security Agency almost unchecked power to monitor Americans’ international phone calls and emails.”

“In my view, the NSA is out of control and operating in an unconstitutional manner,” Sanders tweeted last year. “I worry very much about kids growing up in a society where they think ‘I’m not going to talk about this issue, read this book, or explore this idea because someone may think I’m a terrorist.’ That is not the kind of free society I want for our children.”

Refuting what he and many advocates believe is overreaching government spying, Sanders introduced the Restore Our Privacy Act in a bid to limit sweeping surveillance requests.

“We must give our intelligence and law enforcement agencies all of the tools that they need to combat terrorism, but we must do so in a way that protects our freedom and respects the Constitution’s ban on unreasonable searches,” Sanders said when introducing the bill in June 2013.

(This article was also published on Daily Kos.)

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