Romney holds softer position on pr0n than in video

2007 speech demanding pr0n filters on new computers may not reflect Romney's current belief

Keep in mind this is from 2007, not 2012. Mitt Romney had not yet won the Republican nomination for president from a dizzyingly large field that seemed to compete mainly to see who could stake out the most outrageously abusive policies coming out of the far right of the Republican party.

Romney had not even begun to shifting his campaign rhetoric toward the political center to prepare for the general election.

He was running as a "culture warrior" defending conservatives against the outrages of an international Internet filled with libertines. He was less than a year from losing the nomination to Sen. John McCain, who Republicans nominated despite his imperfect credentials as an ultraconservative.

McCain had yet to lose to Barack Obama, whose ultraconservative credentials were even more imperfect.

Obama had not even been nominated. He was still considered an also-ran behind Hilary Rodham Clinton, the inevitable Democratic nominee.

George Bush was still President. Ultraconservatives were still claiming only those with "something to hide" would object to policies giving law enforcement agencies the right to eavesdrop on citizens any way they wanted without warrants or judicial oversight.

Osama bin Laden was still alive. The economy had not collapsed in the burst of a bubble based on Wall Street Ponzi schemes, sub-prime mortgage schemes and creative accounting.

Catering to ultraconservative sensibilities on the Internet

Calling for the banishment of porn seemed like a harmless way to toss a little red meat to the religious right to help build Romney's reputation as a hard-core conservative, to help prepare for the long campaign for the 2012 nomination, not the one in 2008.

It's very likely Romney didn't intend to make a statement about his beliefs on either porn or the First Amendment that would remain accurate long after the statement itself was recorded.

It's even more likely that Romney didn't mean that, no matter how long it took to get elected, that he would persist in his intent to require that every computer sold in the U.S. have a filter pre-installed that would keep it from displaying "porn" from the Internet.

No one was even asking how he would define "porn," who would decide what content should be banned, what impact Rule 34 would have on those decisions or how the ban would reconcile itself with the First Amendment, which frowns on that kind of thing.

Romney opposed SOPA, hasn't announced a position on CISPA

Romney has said nothing during this election cycle implying he would overtly censor the Internet.

In fact, Romney came out against the Constitution-violating Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) , which went down in flames in January

"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,” Romney said during the Republican debate Jan. 19. “It would have a potentially depressing impact on one of the fastest growing industries in America, which is the Internet and all those industries connected to it.”

The other then-viable Republican candidates also spoke out against SOPA.

Romney has not yet made any position statements about the upcoming Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), which is backed by the same pro-surveillance, copyright-control lobbies that supported SOPA and which contains many of the same provisions as SOPA, including those that clash with the First and Fourth Amendments, according to privacy advocates.

The Obama White House has opposed it, however. Until now Republican candidates have generally supported anything Obama supports.

Wednesday, House Republicans prevented a vote that would have allowed debate over the privacy and civil liberties issues in CISPA – including the authority for the NSA to eavesdrop without warrants and use that information for reasons other than responses to immediate threats of real or digital attacks.

Neither of those things mean Romney will support CISPA, unlimited warrantless digital surveillance, or online surveillance measures that violate, ignore or make excuses to bypass the Fourth Amendment, which would normally require warrants and a reasonable cause for suspicion before allowing digital searches or surveillance.

It's entirely possible Romney will make a statement specifically opposing CISPA and unmonitored Internet surveillance.

It hasn't happened yet, however, and the video is interesting in the look it provides into different eras of Romney's belief or positions on at least one issue with deep implications for the Constitution and the Internet.

Read more of Kevin Fogarty's CoreIT blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Kevin on Twitter at @KevinFogarty. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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