Wyden, Issa call for Internet bill of rights

Speaking at a technology conference in New York on Monday, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) called for a "digital bill of rights" to protect Internet users from intrusive legislation.

The two lawmakers said the protections are necessary to prevent Congress from passing bills that stifle Internet freedom, pointing to the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA).

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The two lawmakers were leading opponents of the two tough anti-piracy bills. Entertainment companies argued the measures were necessary to curb copyright infringement, but Wyden, Issa and many technology companies warned the bills would restrict speech on the Internet.

Congress abandoned the bills earlier this year after a massive Web protest sparked an explosion of voter anger over the issue.

In a discussion at the Personal Democracy Forum, Wyden said the digital bill of rights is part of his vision of "changing power in Washington, D.C."

Wyden argued the proposal would give more power to average Internet users, rather than industry lobbyists. He said many lawmakers show no interest in gaining even a basic understanding of how the Internet works before trying to regulate it.

The Democratic senator said he hopes a grassroots movement will push lawmakers to adopt the bill of rights.

Issa posted a draft of the proposal on his website, keepthewebopen.com. Anyone can log in to suggest edits.

The proposal declares that "digital citizens" have the right to "a free, uncensored Internet" and an "open, unobstructed Internet." The draft also includes rights of equality, privacy, sharing and property on the Internet.

The lawmakers did not detail how they planned to enforce the rights or whether the proposal would be a law or a constitutional amendment.

The Obama administration unveiled its own Internet bill of rights earlier this year, but that proposal focused on protecting consumers privacy.

Although Wyden and Issa both consider themselves defenders of Internet freedom and avoided engaging in any arguments at Monday's conference, the Democrat and Republican do fall on opposite sides of some technology issues.

Wyden, for instance, mentioned the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) as an example of a bill that harms Internet freedom. Issa voted for the controversial cybersecurity bill when it passed the House in April.

When Issa described his vision for what "equality" would mean online, he specifically said the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) net-neutrality regulations fall short. Issa voted to repeal the rules, which bar Internet providers from slowing down or blocking access to legitimate sites, while Wyden voted to uphold them.

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