Activists: Future of Web may be in Senate Dem’s hands

The Electronic Frontier Foundation says Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) “may hold the future of the Internet in his hands,” and is calling on him not to jeopardize it in negotiations for a major upcoming trade deal.

The digital rights group has launched a petition urging Wyden, who is the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, to oppose any measure that would fast-track talks about the Transpacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal by keeping negotiations secret.

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“Democratic and transparent negotiating procedures are essential to protect those rights and the future of our Internet,” the group said in its petition, which has about 1,000 signers as of Thursday morning.

The Obama administration wants Congress to pass fast-track authority for the trade deal, which would give it more leeway to negotiate the agreement.

The provision is critical for the Obama administration, which has heralded the deal — as well as a similar trade proposal with Europe — as game changers for the U.S. economy.

But the group is warning that the move could prevent the public from analyzing crucial measures on Web and copyright issues. 

“If enacted now, draconian Internet and copyright provisions, buried in omnibus treaties, could get passed with almost no oversight,” the group said.

Wyden, whom the group calls “a strong defender of digital rights and a vocal opponent to the secrecy that shrouds trade agreement,” has been a vocal critic of government secrecy and has criticized the administration for keeping Congress in the dark about the trade deal. 

The Electronic Frontier Foundation said he should ensure that meeting transcripts and proposal summaries are published regularly and that Congress has final approval of any language in the trade deal.

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