At Thursday night’s Republican primary debate in South Carolina, the four remaining candidates largely sought to draw contrasts, sharply attacking one another over issues both policy-oriented and personal.
But in asking their views on the House’s Stop Online Piracy Act, CNN moderator John King homed in on at least one topic that the candidates could agree on. All four presidential hopefuls said they objected to the bill, a position that puts them at odds with many Republicans in Congress.
Former House speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) tackled the question first. “The idea that we’re going to preemptively have the government start censoring the Internet on behalf of giant corporations’ economic interests, strikes me as exactly the wrong thing to do,” he said.
Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney jumped in next, saying: “The law as written is far too intrusive, far too expansive, far too threatening to freedom of speech and movement of information across the Internet. It would have a potentially depressing effect on one of the fastest-growing industries in America.”
Noting that he was one of the first Republican members of Congress to oppose the bill, Rep. Ron Paul (Tex.) said that many of his GOP colleagues were “on the wrong side” of this issue. He cited his willingness to break ranks with his party and build a coalition around the issue as an example of why he’d be successful in the White House.
Rick Santorum, however, added a caveat in his opposition to SOPA. The former Pennsylvania senator said he was concerned that without some protections, intellectual property rights would be at risk and that there need to be some safeguards for copyrights on the Web.
“The Internet is not a free zone where anybody can do anything they want to do and trample the rights of other people,” Santorum said.