Does President Obama's Google Hangout Represent A Milestone?

from the more-direct-democracy dept

Yesterday, President Obama used Google Hangout to do a kind of online virtual town hall meeting, which was both live streamed and is now up on Youtube:
Being a "first" such use of a relatively new technology is bound to get some attention, and I thought the coverage from Anthony De Rosa and Alex Howard were both worth reading. The point that Howard makes is that one of the more interesting elements in the event was the actual back-and-forth that happened, rather than just taking questions and answering them. Also, there were some "tough" questions. It clearly wasn't just softballs. There was also a neat use of the technology where the moderator asked people to raise their hands if they disagreed with an answer, and had them ask a followup.

That said, plenty of people were upset that the most highly voted video question, one on legalizing marijuana from a retired deputy police chief from LA, did not get asked. Of course, it actually came in second overall to a text question about SOPA -- which did get asked.

On that question, the President claimed that the administration had expressed its concerns about the bill to Congress since it was introduced. That's interesting, since the White House made no official statement until much later, and the stories we heard were that it hadn't really brought up issues with the bill to Congress until just a few weeks before that. Also of interest to folks around here was his reiteration of his support for a bill making its way through Congress to allow for crowdfunding of startups (currently impossible due to SEC regulations) -- and his statement (as he's noted before) that job growth today comes from startups and entrepreneurs. This was a key point that many of us tried to make during the SOPA debates, considering the bill would add liability and compliance costs on those very startups that were creating all of the net job growth in the country today.

On the whole, it didn't seem like this particular use of technology was a complete breakthrough -- and we've seen elected officials in Congress doing similar things for years. But I do think it's a good thing to see elected officials -- all the way up to the President -- making better use of technology to actually connect with constituents, rather than just hearing from people within a limited advisory circle. Hopefully we see continued experimentation like this. Of course, if President Obama did a Reddit AMA (as suggested by Kashmir Hill), it might break the internet...


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Violated (profile), Jan 31st, 2012 @ 4:41am

    Easy

    It would have been better to have asked him about ACTA and why his invalid signature tries to bind Congress from setting the IP laws it wants.

    SOPA I would say is a far too easy question when everyone hates SOPA making it easy to throw your own trash on. Now to run with PIPA would be a much more interesting question when the last results I saw read that Congress was split over PIPA.

    So all easy questions and no controversy there.

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 31st, 2012 @ 4:50am

    Anything on our current insanely long copy protection lengths?

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 31st, 2012 @ 4:51am

    Re: Easy

    and why ACTA was mostly negotiated in secret and why the public wasn't allowed access to these debates but industry interests were.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 31st, 2012 @ 4:51am

    Re: Easy

    (and I was thinking the same thing as you btw).

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 31st, 2012 @ 5:12am

    and he's only doing this to get re-elected now that his re-election is coming up soon.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 31st, 2012 @ 5:19am

    does he realise that this probably wouldn't have happened if SOPA/PIPA had come in? has he any idea what the copyright folks want to happen and how it will affect everyone? does he even care?

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 31st, 2012 @ 5:20am

    Obama using Google, in big search pockets therefore hates content creators protecting there work from being stolen from rogue sites.

    How was that?

     

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  8.  
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    Jeff, Jan 31st, 2012 @ 5:21am

    He didnt answer them well

    Jeepersmedia did ask a good question on why we are using a bill meant to counter terrorism, to export a guy from the UK to our country to put him in jail, for simply linking to copyright infringement material? He didn't host any content, just linked to.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 31st, 2012 @ 5:30am

    The vast majority of the top rated questions were about hash, yet not a one got answered. And plenty of stupid-ass questions got answered instead. If he's able to cherry-pick whatever he wants to answer, instead of what citizens want to hear about, the exercise is useless anyway.

     

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  10.  
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    tm, Jan 31st, 2012 @ 6:05am

    "the President claimed that the administration had expressed its concerns about the bill to Congress since it was introduced"

    Never heard a word from the administration until AFTER the people spoke loudly.

     

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  11.  
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    ken (profile), Jan 31st, 2012 @ 6:37am

    Obama, Bills No, International Trade Agreements YES!

    Obama is a huge IP Maximilist. He said he opposed bills the censor or take away freedom online. Too bad that only extends to bills and not International trade agreements.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 31st, 2012 @ 6:48am

    Re: Easy

    Yours is not a question. It is on op-ed that assumes his signature is "invalid" and that it would "bind" Congress.

    BTW, not "everyone hates SOPA", and its number of supporters is likely far larger than you and others seem prone to believe.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 31st, 2012 @ 7:14am

    Re: Re: Easy

    "its number of supporters is likely far larger than you and others seem prone to believe."

    [citation needed]

    The evidence says otherwise. When Creative America started an astroturfing campaign to promote the bill it flopped badly. Many people who did sign onto it were fooled into doing so and later demanded their signatures be removed and Creative America had to do some creative counting to try to initially inflate the numbers.

    People want SOPA about as much as they want 95+ year copy protection lengths, these bills were written by corporate interests for corporate interests. Bills like ACTA are negotiated in secret exactly because the government-industrial complex knows that the public does not want them otherwise there is no good reason to negotiate them in secret away from public scrutiny.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 31st, 2012 @ 7:22am

    Re: Re: Re: Easy

    and the mainstream media avoids covering these issues (or if they do they are mostly one sided, with pro-sopa commercials) exactly because they know that allowing critics to discuss these issues and bring more public awareness to them would bring more backlash against a bill that no informed citizen would want, they know very well that they can't defend their position in the face of scrutiny and so they have to present only their side of the debate while abusing their government established cableco and broadcasting monopolies to censor critics like Mike Masnick. Their position is indefensible and they know it, otherwise they wouldn't be so afraid to allow people like Mike to discuss these issues over cable and broadcasting spectra.

     

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  15.  
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    DannyB (profile), Jan 31st, 2012 @ 7:26am

    Re:

    First, it is "their" not "there".

    Second it is not content being stolen from rogue web sites. It is rogue web sites (aka Google) doing the stealing.

    Did you know that when the Googlebot visits your website to index it that it makes a copy of your web page? That's stealing!!! It must be stopped.

    The president has nookular weapons. He should use them.

     

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  16.  
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    The Groove Tiger (profile), Jan 31st, 2012 @ 7:38am

    Re: Easy

    That's why the right question would have been "what is your stance on unconstitutional laws like SOPA, and why did you sign what is basically its international equivalent, ACTA?"

    Watch them try to dodge that one! (no, seriously, watch them because they probably will try, with some tortured logic)

     

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  17.  
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    weneedhelp (profile), Jan 31st, 2012 @ 8:41am

    This fuckin guy thinks he is a movie star. What a joke.

     

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  18.  
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    weneedhelp (profile), Jan 31st, 2012 @ 8:44am

    Re: Re: Easy

    You question for Barry has been denied due to relevance and substance.

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 31st, 2012 @ 8:56am

    I wish the whole process was a little more random. Maybe not just let everybody in, but don't just handpick the questions the president WANTS to be asked.

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 31st, 2012 @ 10:00am

    A White House spokesperson said the President only answered questions he was posed? 18 of the top 20 questions were about reforming U.S. drug policy! None of them were posed?! Google - Did you pose these questions?! If not - WHY would you have wasted everyone's time that voted for these?!

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 31st, 2012 @ 10:15am

    What I find it fantastic is this is the first ever in history of an interactive Q&A, that is global, anyone in the world can see it, it is not just local.

    It shows everyone in the world what a country is thinking about and how it works, not just to people in one part of the world.

     

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  22.  
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    Al Bert (profile), Jan 31st, 2012 @ 10:33am

    Re:

    Yes it's an interesting experiment. Now everyone can watch the valid concerns of the public be ignored in real time!

     

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  23.  
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    Violated (profile), Jan 31st, 2012 @ 10:37am

    Re: Re: Easy

    I did not say mine was a question. It was just a list of topics on which a question could be based.

    Sure not completely everyone hates SOPA, and Lamar Smith comes to mind, but let is keep in mind that the Entertainment Industry has been pumping into Congress their largest corruption money to date.

    A more correct statement would be that everyone who values their job has a damned good reason to hate SOPA. Even the corrupt politicians can see they can still hate SOPA while shifting their support to PIPA.

    We can only be thankful that PIPA lacked the 2/3rds majority required to remove it from the filibuster. The concern is though that PIPA support still hanged around the 50% level.

    These bills are clearly going nowhere until they have been subject to a major rewrite.

     

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  24.  
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    Violated (profile), Jan 31st, 2012 @ 10:48am

    Re:

    Election year...

    Keeping some balance is a good idea but they should have ideally left in the best drug related question so that this community does not feel totally ripped off and ignored.

    It is kind of a shame we did not hear about this beforehand when had we done so then we could have posed some very harsh political questions.

    Mine would have to be... Was you, the vice-President, or another member of the Administration involved in forcing on Spain their own SOPA-like law and how do you justify this action in light of your recent rejection of SOPA?

     

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  25.  
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    Violated (profile), Jan 31st, 2012 @ 10:55am

    Re:

    I watched a young college student get naked and do the same on webcam back in 1997. So it is hardly new technology but at least said model was more open to questions.

     

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  26.  
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    jupiterkansas (profile), Jan 31st, 2012 @ 12:10pm

    Re: He didnt answer them well

    yep, and he just said "Not my problem. Protect IP."

    Of course, it's protect the intellectual property, not the artist that created it.

    ACTA would have been a better question.

     

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  27.  
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    jupiterkansas (profile), Jan 31st, 2012 @ 12:12pm

    Re:

    I heard about from the White House about two weeks before the blackout. Not sure how loud things were then.

     

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  28.  
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    jupiterkansas (profile), Jan 31st, 2012 @ 12:13pm

    Re: Re:

    She was probably willing to dance, too (assuming it was a she)

     

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  29.  
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    dirk sorensby, Feb 29th, 2012 @ 6:11am

    Sick of it

    Obama, I am sick and tired of you, and your leftist ilk, playing games with this god damn political correctness - while Americans DIE> You all need to grow the fuck up and stop treating Islam like it's the girl-scouts. This is a death-cult, non-religion, is violent, unreasonable, and a source of terror world-wide. Anyone that can't stand up and say as much - who must continue to play this pretend game where we act like Islam is no different than any other religion - - you people are cowards and liars. And, the president, for doing this, is a killer, because he's got all kinds of blood on his hands due to his own policies.

     

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  30.  
    identicon
    dirk sorensby, Feb 29th, 2012 @ 6:11am

    Sick of it

    Obama, I am sick and tired of you, and your leftist ilk, playing games with this god damn political correctness - while Americans DIE> You all need to grow the fuck up and stop treating Islam like it's the girl-scouts. This is a death-cult, non-religion, is violent, unreasonable, and a source of terror world-wide. Anyone that can't stand up and say as much - who must continue to play this pretend game where we act like Islam is no different than any other religion - - you people are cowards and liars. And, the president, for doing this, is a killer, because he's got all kinds of blood on his hands due to his own policies.

     

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  31.  
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    lrobbo (profile), Jun 7th, 2012 @ 9:31am

    Would've loved to have seen the marijuana question raised . . .

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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