Double Standards! The U.S. on Domestic vs. Global Internet Policy

Just this month, the United States signed on to a Human Rights Council statement praising freedom of expression on the Internet, along with forty other countries across the world. The purpose of the statement is to emphasize how integral modern-day communications technologies are for the promotion of basic human rights. You would naturally expect the United States, leader of the free world, to be a signatory — but can the recent slew of restrictive legislation being pushed through Congress allow the U.S. to support a globally open Internet in good faith??
 
Let’s take a look at the inconsistencies:
  • The HRC statement says: “We consider Government-initiated closing down of the Internet, or major parts thereof, for purposes of suppressing free speech, to be in violation of freedom of expression. In addition, Governments should not mandate a more restrictive standard for intermediaries than is the case with traditional media regarding freedom of expression or hold intermediaries liable for content that they transmit or disseminate.”
  • Yet, Senate Bill 978 — the “Ten Strikes Bill” — would make unlicensed online streaming (by corporations or individual Internet users) a felony punishable by 5 years in prison.

  • The HRC statement continues: “All users, including persons with disabilities, should have greatest possible access to Internet-based content, applications and services, whether or not they are offered free of charge. In this context, network neutrality and openness are important objectives. Cutting off users from access to the Internet is generally not a proportionate sanction.
  • Yet, Senate Bill 968 — the PROTECT IP Act or “Internet Blacklist Bill” — would give the government the power to force Internet service providers, search engines, and other “information location tools” to block users' access to sites that have been accused of copyright infringement.
  • HRC: “For us, one principle is very basic: The same rights that people have offline – freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek information, freedom of assembly and association, amongst others – must also be protected online.”
  • But the Obama administration is facilitating a “three strikes” style deal between Internet Service Providers and intellectual property rights holders to reduce bandwidth and restrict web access to certain sites for users who have been accused of copyright infringement.

If you can’t stand for such hypocrisy on the part of the US government, sign our petitions below:

You can read the full text of the HRC statement here, as well as the UN report on pro-Internet freedom being praised here.

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Nice work if you can get it

Have you gotten four raises in the past six years? Jefferson County supervisor Stephen Burgmeier has, I learned after writing about the Republican’s first television ad for the September 1 special election in Iowa House district 90. Burgmeier is highlighting alleged overspending by Democrats, but if he’s so stingy with the people’s money, why did he keep voting to raise his own pay?

The “check the facts” page on Democratic candidate Curt Hanson’s website contains other useful information too. In addition to raising his own pay repeatedly, Burgmeier voted five times to raise taxes on Jefferson County residents. Did Iowans for Tax Relief know about this record when the group took responsibility for running Burgmeier’s campaign?

The Iowa Democratic Party is running this ad backing Hanson:

Share any relevant thoughts about phony Republican posturing in this thread. You can sign up here to volunteer for the Hanson campaign.

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UPDATE: Steve King promises to pay back D.C. property taxes owed

UPDATE: The Iowa Republican (citing Steve King’s office) says the D.C. Property Tax Office admitted they made a mistake in this case. I didn’t see a link to any official notice of the correction from the D.C. tax office and will be looking for confirmation of that.

SECOND UPDATE: From The Des Moines Register:

A clerical mistake by the property tax administration in Washington, D.C., allowed U.S. Rep. Steve King to receive a tax credit intended for people whose district property serves as their permanent residence, the agency’s director said Thursday. […]

“Although you never applied for the benefit or the tax cap, the (Office of Tax and Revenue) applied the deduction to the property when the deed was recorded,” Richie McKeithen’s letter states.

The error may have occurred by someone inadvertently transferring the tax credit claimed by the previous owner to King when he bought the home in 2005.

King spokesman Matt Lahr said King would pay the back taxes. The letter stated that the credit had been removed and that the agency would notify King of the amount due within a week.

I’m glad to hear that Congressman King will pay the full amount of property taxes he owes to the District of Columbia.

Iowa Independent noticed an article in Roll Call about four members of Congress (all House Republicans) who “appear to be improperly receiving the Washington, D.C., homestead tax deduction, reducing their annual property tax bills by hundreds of dollars and potentially much more over the long term.” Wouldn’t you know, Iowa’s own Congressman Steve King is one of the apparent tax cheats.

Roll Call is available by subscription only, but Iowa Independent has the relevant details:

The exemption allows people who own homes in Washington, D.C., to receive a $67,500 reduction on the assessed value of their home. The deduction also caps increases on the assessed value of homes at 10 percent above the previous year’s tax assessment. It is not supposed to be available to those who claim residency in another state even if they have a home in the District.

If Congressman King wants to change his official residence from Kiron to the District of Columbia, that’s fine with me. But more likely he’ll keep trying to have it both ways, paying less than his fair share of D.C. property taxes, unless the local media in Iowa’s fifth district pick up on this story.

Former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania got caught a few years back claiming a homestead exclusion for a house he did not occupy. Some conservative heroes have a funny sense of “personal responsibility.”

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