10 questions to the Presidential candidates from a netizen’s perspective

1. Recently, the U.S. congress tried to pass acts like SOPA and Protect IP in order to make the law ​​more stringent on protection of intellectual property rights, but it has also led to concerns of controlling over Internet and suppression of freedom of speech. Taiwan has always closely followed in the footsteps and aligns closely with the United States on intellectual property issues, so how do you look at the endless violations of copyright online, and how would you protect the inviolability of freedom of expression online?

2. Regarding network environment and network infrastructure applications, Taiwan is rapidly lagging behind other Asian tigers. What do you think the crux of the problem is? How will you solve this problem?

3. Net Neutrality is the basis on which successful web site services such as Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Youtube, etc. have been able to develop. However, there is little discussion of this issue in Taiwan, while some Internet service providers have been trying to (or already have) set bandwidth limitations over specific sites and modes of transmission. What is your view on this?

4. The ECFA that Government signed with China is designed to reduce the bilateral trade restrictions, however, the biggest barrier between Taiwan and China is nothing but Internet and information. It is well known, China’s Golden Shield is the most complex system for filtering and control of Internet speech. The gradual implementation of the Web site registration and users’ real-name system, among other measures, are turning the Internet in China into an Intranet. Many websites from Taiwan are blocked in China, and many Chinese websites in are extremely slow in Taiwan, which is extremely inconvenient for netizens to communicate on both sides. If you are elected, will you prioritize this issue, and how will you negotiate with China?

5. One of the things that all Taiwanese can agree on is the poor quality of Taiwan’s media. Hence, many citizen reporters have come forward and begun to use their personal efforts to cover issues ignored by the mainstream media on the Internet and raise enthusiasm from more people for public affairs. How do you view the rise of citizen media? If you are elected, will the Government you will be leading recognize the right for citizens to report? And what measures will you take to encourage more “small media” to appear online?

6. “Open data” is one of the most prominent topics online. Its main purpose is to let more people access to government information through popular pipelines like the Internet, so that in a democratic society citizens can supervise the government and representatives not just during election time. At the same time, the large amount of data that government controls are valuable and can serve as the basis of the application for Internet entrepreneurs under the premise of not violating the principle of privacy and confidentiality. Do you know what the inadequacies of the Taiwan government on open data are? If you are elected, how would you gradually improve them?

7. Digital divide is a phenomenon of modern society, which has many definitions and evaluation criteria, I am not attempting to repeat this, but it is definitely the key to national progress. However, with more and more Internet services that require larger bandwidth and faster and uninterrupted Internet connections, the “haves” and “have-nots” gap is now even more difficult to preempt. Government has always approached this problem by supplementing the hardware when the real gap lies in the ability to use and to learn quickly. Do you recognize the new problems caused by digital divide, and how will you deal with them?

8. To directly listen to public opinion through the Internet, and to have dialogue with netizens is what many leaders of democratic countries regularly do. Even the leaders of China have attended such direct online events and to answer questions from Internet users. The views of netizens may not necessarily be representative, but they are certainly the fastest channel for government to understand the response to policy and current events: to rule by reading newspapers is surely outdated. Because of the election, citizens have the opportunity to throw questions to the Presidential candidates. After the election, this opportunity is gone. If you are elected, can you promise to hold virtual town hall meetings with netizens regularly every quarter or six months, and to answer questions by yourself directly?

9. Non-polluting Internet business is more suitable for the Taiwan government to invest in than energy-intensive and polluting petrochemical or electronics industries. Yet, for decades the government has not changed its direction, still betting on heavy industry or the so-called high-tech industry, resulting in uneven distribution of resources that are seriously squeezed. While environmental pollution in Taiwan has reached the end of the bearing capacity at the moment, do you consider to direct resources to the Internet industry and to adjust the industrial structure?

10. The Internet is about to or has been pervasive, affecting social, national, and even international levels. Would you consider establishing a high-order “Chief Internet Officer” in the governmental system, or recruit an “Internet consultant” in particular on the list of national policy consultants? If so, what kind of authority and responsibility will you give him? If not, why is that?

Portnoy Zheng (鄭國威) is author and editor at Global Voices Online and owner of the pan-science blog