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The Candidates on Technology

Find out where Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John McCain stand on key technology issues.

Credit: Alastair Halliday

There is no question that each of the three candidates left in the 2008 presidential campaign realizes the importance that technology issues will play in the general election to come. Whether paying court at Google headquarters in Mountain View, CA, or answering detailed questionnaires from technology publications, each candidate has felt compelled to lay out a road map of where he or she plans to lead the country on these complex and sometimes controversial issues. Our interactive guide attempts to give readers a sense of where the candidates currently stand, and it points to key legislation that each candidate has introduced or voted on to see where he or she has stood in the past.

It is little surprise that the youngest candidate, Barack Obama, has the most detailed technology platform–no other candidate has vowed to crack down on phishing or spyware, for instance. Obama’s strong support for net neutrality and his ambitious proposal to increase broadband deployment nationwide have won him the endorsement of such tech luminaries as free-culture proponent Lawrence Lessig and Netscape cofounder Marc Andreessen. But Silicon Valley votes alone will not win the presidency, and Obama’s support for corn ethanol and coal-to-liquid fuel subsidies, while popular in the Midwest, has caused some environmentalists to question his green credentials.

Obama’s opponent in the Democratic primary, Hillary Clinton, has also thrown her support behind corn ethanol as a key piece of her energy plan, despite opposition to federal subsidies earlier in her Senate career. She also joins Obama, as well as John McCain, in proposing a cap-and-trade program for cutting greenhouse-gas emissions to fight global warming, which every candidate agrees is a threat. Clinton supports net neutrality and promises to extend broadband service into underserved areas, while her proposed “Privacy Bill of Rights” seeks to establish a national consensus on privacy issues in the digital age.

John McCain, the Republican nominee, can sometimes seem uncomfortable fielding technology questions (when asked, “Mac or PC?”, McCain responded, “Illiterate”), but his long tenure on the Senate Commerce Committee has given him valuable knowledge of the industry’s inner workings. So it is not unfamiliarity with the issues but, instead, his avowed commitment to free-market principles that has led McCain to oppose net-neutrality legislation and further regulation of the telecommunications industry. Although McCain joins Clinton and Obama in promising to ease the restrictions on embryonic stem-cell research put in place by President Bush, his public statements on the issue have become increasingly cautious as he seeks to establish himself as a pro-life candidate. In recent interviews, he has held out hope that advances in reprogramming skin cells into embryonic stem cells will render the controversy moot.

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