Hello my sweet possums, this is an article particularly for folks who are able to vote in the 2018 U.S. Midterm Elections but honestly it’s good for anyone in any situation where you’ve got control over your governance in some capacity. I am here to tell you why you should vote for Democrats, aside from all the usual common sense reasons I and Autostraddle usually tell you to do that (raise the minimum wage, abortion access, the other party is White Nationalist, etc). This is the reason: Democrats promise that, if they win back the House, they’re going to start regulating Silicon Valley. Which sorely needs to happen.
Why does it need to happen? Well, Facebook and Twitter combined with Russian attempts to influence elections are the reason the United States is currently beset by 45, for example, but also because existing laws and regulations were never built for this era. A lot of the things that are possible, even normal, now would’ve been considered at least physical impossibilities and at most witchcraft when the laws were written. I reached out to Brianna Wu, game designer, technology expert and politician preparing for her 2020 Congressional run, for comment on why it’s important that we have leaders who know how to focus on technology policy. “Right now, tech policy is tilted towards the Verizons and the AT&Ts of the world,” she says. “There is almost no one in Washington that cares about your privacy, no one that cares about your cybersecurity. And things are not going to change until we have a generation of leaders that understand why this matters.”
Democrats do have a direction in which to travel, according to an op-ed written by Kara Swisher, technology journalist and co-founder of Recode, published in The New York Times on October 4th. Enter the Internet Bill of Rights, initially drafted by Rohit Khanna, U.S. Representative from California’s 17th District (where Apple, Intel and Yahoo all live). He’s the perfect Democratic Congressman to take a first swing at what we want the future of internet regulation to look like, given where he’s situated, and he has done. Here’s what the list of ten principles looks like:
Set of Principles for an Internet Bill of Rights
The internet age and digital revolution have changed Americans’ way of life. As our lives and the U.S. economy are more tied to the internet, it is essential to provide Americans with basic protections online.
You should have the right:
(1) to have access to and knowledge of all collection and uses of personal data by companies;
(2) to opt-in consent to the collection of personal data by any party and to the sharing of personal data with a third party;
(3) where context appropriate and with a fair process, to obtain, correct or delete personal data controlled by any company and to have those requests honored by third parties;
(4) to have personal data secured and to be notified in a timely manner when a security breach or unauthorized access of personal data is discovered;
(5) to move all personal data from one network to the next;
(6) to access and use the internet without internet service providers blocking, throttling, engaging in paid prioritization or otherwise unfairly favoring content, applications, services or devices;
(7) to internet service without the collection of data that is unnecessary for providing the requested service absent opt-in consent;
(8) to have access to multiple viable, affordable internet platforms, services and providers with clear and transparent pricing;
(9) not to be unfairly discriminated against or exploited based on your personal data; and
(10) to have an entity that collects your personal data have reasonable business practices and accountability to protect your privacy.
To my mind, the most significant is the sixth one, which would enshrine net neutrality as the law of the land. It is a position I have hammered home several times: net neutrality is a queer issue. And given what ad algorithms know or can guess about you (and how ubiquitous those tracking systems are), protection from discrimination based on your data is a pretty major deal as well. All of these points would certainly do a lot to tip the scales more toward individual humans and less toward the Verizons and AT&Ts of the world, as concerned Wu. All in all, I think it’s an excellent start and points to the future we wish we could have, rather than the technological dystopian hellscape promised to us by so many science fiction novels towards which we seem intent on marching. In order to make any of this into reality, for it to be anything other than a list drafted by a congress member from California, we need to retake the House in the midterm elections on November 6th. If you live in the United States and are able to vote, it is imperative that you do so. And you should vote for Democrats who both understand computers and are willing to regulate and legislate in the real, actual technological age that is upon us.
I’m talking mostly about the federal government, but this same exact sentiment applies to anyone running for a State governance position as well. In fact, when our country is working at its finest (and the federal government isn’t built entirely of bumbling appointees and fascists), the idea behind our system is that the States enact policies and laws, each trying out what is best for their particular State. The federal government sees how each State’s plan progresses and then simply takes the best one and builds federal regulation, policy or law on it. We’re starting to see a little of that happen with how each State regulates cryptocurrency, for example. Given that the idea is to eventually return to a time when our federal government isn’t bees, focusing on this issue at a State level isn’t a bad road to take (although I have misgivings about a single state’s power to do much and the time might already be here for far-reaching federal action, but that is BESIDE THE POINT TAKE EVERYTHING WE CAN OKAY?). Don’t only ask these questions of candidates for the U.S. House and Senate; ask them of candidates in State positions as well. Congressman Khanna’s list gives you a very convenient thing to point to—what does the platform say about it? Can you make it to an event and ask? Send an email? Be informed and hold all potential representatives accountable.