The People Trying To Ruin The Internet: John McCain


At the Voice, we have been regularly following internet policy developments. We figured it would be cool — maybe even a public service? — to ID people who keep pushing for web-killing proposals such as CISPA, SOPA, and PIPA in this new, occasional feature: “The People Trying To Ruin The Internet.” Enjoy!

Since the U.S. House of Representatives hastily passed CISPA in April, some have wondered: What will the Senate do?

It seems like Joseph Lieberman isn’t the only senator to try to answer that question.

John McCain has also sponsored cybersecurity legislation.
Unlike Lieberman’s proposed law, McCain’s CISPA-esque bill would call for voluntary sharing of info between critical internet infrastructure and law enforcement.

However, the problem identified by web freedom advocates is that the legislation does not seem to adequately protect privacy and might encourage the National Security Agency to snoop on private individuals — they say that the language of the would-be law is so broad that it would allow for companies to give e-mails to the government.

The Senator has countered that acts of civil disobedience would be protected — and that the only exchange of communications would involve direct threats, Reuters reports.

This isn’t the first time that McCain’s moves have had a cool reception in the tech community, however. In 2008, he got called an “internet dunce” for repeatedly proclaiming his ignorance of the net, saying: “I’m an illiterate who has to rely on my wife for all of the assistance that I can get.”

He nevertheless swore to close the digital gap at other junctures, but Salon reports that he opposed Education Rate, a program that provided internet access to schools and libraries at a discount. He then pushed for content censorship in some public contexts, claiming that filters were necessary to protect the children.

From Salon:

“‘The prevention lies not in censoring what goes into the Internet,’ said McCain of his Internet School Filtering Act in 1998, ‘but rather in filtering what comes out of it onto the computers our children use outside the home.’ McCain’s position was so strict that even former Sen. Rick Santorum, a hard-line conservative, proposed a more moderate compromise bill.”

And let’s not forget McCain’s staunch opposition to net neutrality — or the fact that at the time he pushed for the Internet Freedom Act, he got more lobbying money from the telecom industry than any other senator.

The Voice reached out to McCain’s office multiple times for comment. We didn’t hear back.