The Trump Security Platform: Maintaining the GOP Status Quo

To read our overview of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s security platform, click here.

Technology issues, and cybersecurity in particular, have taken on a growing role in American politics. In the lead up to the 2016 presidential election, the cybersecurity issue is more pressing than ever. The formal Republican Party platform reflects these concerns, as does the broader discussion of technology and security policy in the U.S.

Trump Security Platform Mirrors GOP Standard

Although the 2016 campaign is unique in many respects, the Donald Trump security platform largely reflects established GOP preferences on specific technology and cybersecurity issues. The platform views government regulation critically while also assigning high priority to national security regulations. On a more granular level, policy preferences regarding specific industry segments unfold among familiar lines.

Cybersecurity in an Insecure World

The Republican platform, as adopted at the party’s national convention in Cleveland, Ohio, has two sections that primarily address the internet, technology and cybersecurity issues.

“Protecting Internet Freedom” sharply criticized what it described as an Obama administration initiative to “impose upon the internet rules devised in the 1930s for the telephone monopoly.” This appears to criticize net neutrality, though that term is not used. The same section also called for action to ensure that “personal data receives full constitutional protection from government overreach.”

The Trump security platform is more directly addressed in “Cybersecurity in an Insecure World.” The section called for an aggressive response to cyberattacks, suggested exploration of a “free market for cyber insurance,” and argued that web users have a right to “deal with hackers as they see fit.” A subsequent section called for action to disable internet firewalls established by authoritarian governments.

Negative on Net Neutrality

As Twice noted, Gary Shapiro, president of the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), issued a statement approving of the technology sections of the GOP platform. He also urged the Trump-Pence campaign to follow up with a “detailed policy agenda” for the tech sector.

The debate over net neutrality is one potentially contentious aspect of such an agenda, not least because it broadly pits two industry segments against each other. Specifically, it pits content providers who tend to favor net neutrality against pipeline providers critical of measures that would regulate their pipelines. This intra-industry battle of alignments has emerged in the past few years as a sharp partisan dividing line within the tech sector.

Right to Self-Defense

Turning more directly to the GOP and Trump security platform, the platform document raised some intriguing questions surrounding topics such as the right of users to defend themselves against cybercriminals. Implicitly, users would have a right to launch counterattacks, such as deploying malware, against malicious actors. The nature of this self-defense right calls for further exploration.

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In other respects, the GOP platform illustrated how fast the cybersecurity conversation is moving. While the platform mentioned the ISIS terrorist group several times, it did not specifically address responding to its threat in cyberspace.

This silence should not be a surprise: Concern about the group’s use of cyberspace to spread propaganda entered the broad sphere of public attention so recently that it has not yet become the focus of detailed platform documents.

The rapid pace of development in technology continues to challenge current and prospective policymakers to address issues that, in many cases, have not yet come to light.

Rick Robinson is a writer and blogger, with a current 'day job' focus on the tech industry and a particular interest in...