By refusing to release the transcripts of her paid speeches to Wall Street bankers, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton cast doubt on her independence from the crooks who run the financial system. By contrast, Clinton’s program for ‘technology and innovation policy’ has been an open book since June 2016. What she publicized is as revealing – and as disturbing – as what she tried to keep secret.
Clinton’s proposal for access to high-speed Internet for all by 2020 would further relax regulation to help the Internet industry to build new networks, tap into existing public infrastructure, and encourage ‘public and private’ partnerships. Clinton’s policy program also backs the 5G wireless network initiative and the release of unlicensed spectrum to fuel the ‘Internet of Thing.’ (IoT).
Clinton’s international plans are equally manipulative. She will press for ‘an open Internet abroad,’ that is, for ‘internet freedom’ and ‘free flow of information across borders.’ Despite the powerful appeal of this rhetoric, which she exploited systematically when she was Secretary of State, Clinton actually is pushing to bulwark U.S. big capital in general, and U.S. internet and media industries, in particular. Outside the United States, especially since the disclosures by Edward Snowden in 2013, it is increasingly well-understood that the rhetoric of human rights is a smokescreen for furthering U.S. business interests. Reviving this approach is cynical electioneering rather than an endeavor to advance human rights or, indeed, more just international relations.
This in turn provides the context in which to understand Clinton’s vow to support the ‘multi-stakeholder’ approach to Internet governance. ‘Multi-stakeholderism’ endows private corporations with public responsibilities, while it downgrades the ability of governments to influence Internet policy – as they have tried to do, notably, in the United Nations. By shifting the domain in this way, the multi-stakeholder model actually reduces the institutional room available to challenge U.S. power over the global Internet. It was for this very reason that the Obama Administration recently elevated multi-stakeholderism into the reigning principle for global Internet governance: On 1 October, the U.S. Commerce Department preempted (other) governments from exercising a formal role.
This is, once again, the preferred agenda of Silicon Valley.
To build up her policy platform in this vital field, Clinton has assembled a network of more than 100 tech and telecom advisors. The members of this shadowy group have not been named, but they are said to include former advisors and officials, affiliates of think-tanks and trade groups, and executives at media corporations. Apparently, just as with respect to Wall Street, the public has no right to know who is shaping Clinton’s program for technology.
Some might choose to emphasize that the Republican candidate, Donald Trump, has not even bothered to hint to voters about his tech and information policy. Fair enough. Clinton’s program, though, is both surreptitious and plutocratic. It’s not that she’s not good enough – it’s that she’s in the wrong camp. England’s Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘Digital Democracy’ program offers a better entry point for thinking about democratic information policy, as it includes publicly financed universal internet access, fair wages for cultural workers, release to open source of publicly funded software and hardware, cooperative ownership of digital platforms and more. That would be a start.
The article has been excerpted from: ‘The Silicon Valley Candidate’.