Karlo Dizon on Open Internet, Guam, and Effecting Change in Congress

Photo 2   K Dizon Launch Speech 051412

Last week, Karlo Dizon, a 27-year-old Guamanian and graduate of Yale University, announced his candidacy for Guam’s non-voting delegate seat in the United States Congress. He did so in two ways -- the traditional means of filing paperwork with the territory’s elections office, and also by conducting an AMA, or ‘Ask Me Anything’, post on the popular social news aggregator Reddit. Mr. Dizon has made campaigning for a free and open internet a cornerstone of his run for office, so we asked him to talk about his run for Congress, his views on the internet and how they impact his potential constituents on Guam in a Q&A.

ENGINE: So, you’re running for Congress. Why?

KARLO DIZON: I ran because I was dissatisfied with the current Congresswoman but few were willing to step up to the plate. I have always believed in the ability of the democratic process to provide the best for our society, and consequently, I have grown uncomfortable with the direction and climate Congress has been taking for quite some time. In the spirit of being the change you want to see in the world, I thought it was time I try to affect change myself. I suppose that is really the primary reason: rather than hoping the current Congresswoman would listen to the growing concerns of the people of Guam, I would champion change directly by running for Congress.

E: A lot of the public discussion of your campaign is based around ideas of a free and open internet. How do you think this affects your constituency in Guam? Do you see it as a more national issue or one of particular local importance?

KD: Defending a free and open internet should be a fundamental priority for anyone who values democracy. As such I don’t know if I could separate the national and local effects as two different things. Just as I see my local heritage being influenced by and inseparable from national ideals of freedom, self-sufficiency, and democracy, so, too, do I understand the effects of legislation such as SOPA, PIPA and CISPA to be disastrous to the nation and my island. However, it should be stated that for a relatively remote island in the Pacific, there are specific worries for what CISPA would mean for Guam. Namely, if freedoms are curtailed and the use of the internet becomes associated with risking privacy, our dependence on the internet for consuming goods and information from the mainland would jeopardize our people’s ability to advance the pursuit of equality with standards of living enjoyed in the rest of the United States.

E: You announced your campaign to people worldwide in a Reddit thread. How have internet-based tools helped you broadcast your message to the electorate?

KD: Guam is still developing a sense of online presence for political outreach purposes. We hope that the way we’re running this campaign will encourage all future elections to tap into this resource, as it provides a forum for interacting with people on a more individual level. As of now, we’re primarily using Facebook and a campaign website that hooks to a backend database. I genuinely believe that Facebook is the next level of political communication--it provides the means for a two-way conversation and is instantly received by the voters on their screens or phones, compared to a website that voters have to actively access themselves.We have started to see individuals making their way up to us because they saw our online presence, agreed with our goals, and wanted to see how they could help. It reinforces our belief that providing open access to information online is pivotal not only for the democratic process but also in forging stronger ties with the community as a whole. And of course, we look forward to advancing an online political culture that utilizes more of the available tools in order to enfranchise younger generations.

E: What would your goals be if elected, especially with regard to internet openness, and what effect do you think you can have in Congress as a non-voting delegate?

KD: By and large my goals echo that of the Democratic Party, and even more so with regards to internet openness. I support the Obama administration’s defense of the American people’s privacy, data confidentiality and civil liberties, and I agree that the internet is public domain. I would fight to encourage the President’s current stance of vetoing CISPA, and proactively look into ways of preventing further legislation from ever getting this far. As per the vote, I do think it is important to remember that as the delegate from Guam, I would have a vote in committees. To the extent that I can influence committee decisions and authorship of bills, then, I think there is plenty of room to influence Congress. It is true that not having a vote makes it more difficult, but then, if I didn’t like a challenge I wouldn’t be running against a 10-year incumbent.