President Obama's State Of The Union: Praises Open Internet… Complains About Terrorists Using Open Internet

from the and-so-it-goes dept

As you probably heard, President Obama gave his final State of the Union Address a little while ago, and it was likely pretty much what you expected. A lot of vague pronouncements and not a whole ton of substance. I was surprised that the TPP got very little mention at all (it was basically mentioned in passing), but found it especially odd that the internet was mentioned just twice — and in ways that seemed to contradict each other. First, the President gave a brief mention of how his administration has “protected the open internet”:

We?ve protected an open internet, and taken bold new steps to get more students and low-income Americans online. We?ve launched next-generation manufacturing hubs, and online tools that give an entrepreneur everything he or she needs to start a business in a single day.

The second mention comes a few paragraphs down, when he suddenly whines about terrorists using that very same open internet:

Priority number one is protecting the American people and going after terrorist networks. Both al Qaeda and now ISIL pose a direct threat to our people, because in today?s world, even a handful of terrorists who place no value on human life, including their own, can do a lot of damage. They use the Internet to poison the minds of individuals inside our country; they undermine our allies.

Both points have an element of truth in them, but the whole thing seems pretty silly. If you have an open internet, then part of the point is that anyone can use it — even people you don’t like. Fighting ISIS and other terrorists is certainly important, but even mentioning the fact that they use the internet is silly. Some of them drive cars too. It’s not really all that relevant.

Beyond that, there really wasn’t much related to stuff that we’re interested in around here. It talks about bringing back our innovative spirit (did it really go away?), but (unlike in past States of the Union) chooses not to mention patent reform (even though the President’s suggested reforms haven’t gone anywhere).

It’s silly to expect too much from the State of the Union Address, which gets a lot more buzz than it’s worth, but as a first pass, the idea that the two mentions of the internet contradict each other more or less summed up one of the big problems with the way this administration has treated the internet. It tends to talk out of both sides of its mouth on these issues, and never really take a stand. There truly are a number of really great people working in the White House on tech policy, looking to maintain a free and open internet, but there are plenty of others who are trying to undermine it, and to give in to FUD about the “dangers” of an open internet. It’s a bit disappointing that the President never really came out with a strong leadership position on this and made it clear that we’re not going to undermine a free and open internet out of fear — but instead continues to give lip service to the free and open internet, while hinting at a willingness to toss it out the window.

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Comments on “President Obama's State Of The Union: Praises Open Internet… Complains About Terrorists Using Open Internet”

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Anonymous Coward says:

…even mentioning the fact that they use the internet is silly. Some of them drive cars too. It’s not really all that relevant.

The irrelevance seems even more glaring with a much more closely related comparison. Given that the ISIS magazine Dabiq is widely circulated in a print version, can you imagine the President saying ‘They use printing presses to poison the minds of individuals inside our country…’?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: The irrelevance seems even more glaring

Your blog post only has meaning if one makes the erroneous presupposition that projecting lethal force (destruction, as you put it,) is not an appropriate task for a tool. The fact that you posted it on tumblr is just icing on the cake. In short, Lawrence D’Oliveiro, your argument and your tumblr are garbage.

@b (user link) says:

Re: Re:

I suspect that rag’s circulation is low within the US.

Nobody is using cars to find recruits.

I think it charitable to interpret Obama as: Youtube links are now lethal propaganda.

Businesses can start trading online with one day.

What seems silly is to link the two “internet” topics as if they overlap more than slightly; open trade and jihadist videos.

At least until jihad moves behind a paywall. :p

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Nobody is using *cars* to find recruits.

OK, now I can’t shake the image of a really odd-looking ice-cream truck… Also, paywalls are too easy to work around: ISIS is gonna have to develop some sort of JihaDRM. That’ll work out really well I’m sure, at least until terrorism is defeated by a class-action lawsuit.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re:

can you imagine the President saying ‘They use printing presses to poison the minds of individuals inside our country
Not these days – but in the 16th and 17th centuries when printing was new they said it frequently – and they had a point.

Unfortunately for us the solution they came up with led to copyright that we still suffer under today. So the lesson is this.

1. Yes we do need to worry specifically about terrorists use of new technology – not because it is special but because it is NEW and hence our previous solutions are not adapted to it.

2. Even if WE don’t worry about it others will and there is a fair chance that what they will come up with will have unwanted side effects – just like it did in the 17th century.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I was thinking about this after posting my comment, and started wondering if there was something like Moore’s law for the adoption of technology. A couple/few centuries for printing presses, OK. (Although busting up presses even went on for longer than that, given that nobody could just run to the General Store to pick up a new one.) Seems like a couple of decades for the internet is enough to hit banal ubiquity.

Given Obama’s image as being tech-savvy*, his statement seems a little silly. G.H.W. Bush’s or Clinton’s administrations could have probably gotten away with it, but the ‘new magic tech bad’ trope should be dead & buried as far as the internet goes. Specifically mentioning the internet as a thing in itself feels kinda like talking about the Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways.

Dunno, I’m gonna stick w/ thinking it’s a bit of a tired thing to say, but I’ll say it with less flippancy.

* – How tech savvy? He could’ve been using a Facebook predecessor in 1991.

Socrates says:

Learning from history, or just not giving a damn

Al-Qaeda were made by the US authorities with ample support from Saudi Arabian authorities. The history of Al-Qaeda, MAK, and the mujahideen is well known, but the mainstream media pretend not to know, and instead cause lots of people to be ignorant.

The mujahideen were fond of laying missiles on the ground and firing them into the city of Kabul, without any guidance.

They got hundreds of millions of dollar in aid from USA.

ISIL were part of the “opposition” in Syria. The “opposition” got massive aid from the US authorities, including weapons. The “opposition” is various religious nutters keen on making war, and the Kurds. ISIL makes war on Kurds and the Syrian autorities, the Kurds makes war on ISIL and the Syrian autorities, and the Syrian authorities makes war on the Kurds and the ISIL that makes war on them.

US supported the “opposition” in Syria, and were against the “opposition” in Irak. It is the same “opposition”.

After the fallout between ISIL in Syria and US, the US is at war with ISIL in Syria and support the Kurds; and the US supports Turkey that supports ISIL and buy oil from them while being at war with the Kurds.

Of cause supporting extremists causes grief, and of cause it will harm us too. I just don’t understand why people voluntarily watch main stream media.

And the same goes for other extremists. The “EU friendly” fascists in Kiev keen on destroying the energy supply to large parts of Ukraine causing humans, pets and domestic animals to develop frostbite and gangrene. I am absolutely sure that US politicians and the mass media will lie when they too “turn bad”. Perhaps giving them a new nickname will be sufficient to fool the viewers, it usually is.

Anonymous Coward says:

I would expect such a sensationalist headline (and post) from a lesser entity than TechDirt. For all the posts about honesty, transparency, and straight-shooting, this is disappointing.

All I see is Obama saying “[Terrorists] use the internet.”
I don’t see any “contradictions.”
I don’t see any “complaining.”
I don’t see any “whining.”
I don’t see any “hints of willingness to throw it out the window”

And as others have pointed out, it’s relevant to mention because they’re using the Internet in new ways (i.e. social media).

Monday (profile) says:


I watched the address last night, and there was more bark than bite – it was seriously over-blown. Several Dems & Repubs stated that they feel the TPP won’t see any progress this year, but “… it’s not dead.”

You did mention IS and al Qaeda in the article so I’ll write to that. I have spent some time trying to get a bead on the two terrorist organizations and I feel it boils down to this;

1. IS is the stronger, more viscous, more psychopathic of these two groups, and IS is 35k to 40k strong. Nevertheless, Boots on the Ground is remains an unviable option for the US. The coalition that is currently reducing IS is not the Medusa here, because we witness the deaths of their immediate leaders, and sure enough, those heads are replaced as quickly as the are delivered their death sentence. I have to agree that ‘no boots’ needs to be changed to one quarter million boots – the body needs to die in this conflict. It is unlike any guerrilla war that has been fought before. The coalition is literally dealing with a group that believes, entirely, in a first kill then convert ‘business model, and it is using a form of Islam that is Medieval in context and purpose. The coalition needs to have all countries engaged in a ground war if they have any expectation for success.

2. The Open Internet needed to be a larger concern than POTUS‘s two short, contradictory statements, but it is something I suspect he couldn’t go into more detail because of his time constraints – being the last year and all. The internet is not as big an issue as the individuals who have elected themselves guardians of the internet are to it. Just as much of a problem to Human development as Global Warming, these unofficial officials, keep repeating the same phrases over and over again; “I’m not a Scientist“, or “I’m not a Doctor“, or “I can’t comment on that just yet, BUT, I (we) have a plan“, as well as “insert outrageous Donald Trump quote here“, and they are given outrageous leniency for retarding the whole governing process. That’s where the issue of openness in an open internet sits at the moment. These uninformed, almost illiterate leaders are by definition, infringing the accepted models that constitute openness, and trampling civil rights / constitutional rights in the process. I quote:

Openness to experience is one of the domains which are used to describe human personality in the Five Factor Model. Openness involves six facets, or dimensions, including active imagination, aesthetic sensitivity, attentiveness to inner feelings, preference for variety, and intellectual curiosity. A great deal of psychometric research has demonstrated that these facets or qualities are significantly correlated. Thus, openness can be viewed as a global personality trait consisting of a set of specific traits, habits, and tendencies that cluster together.

Everything appears as a Slippery Slope, or Red Herring, or some other fallacy that doesn’t support any argument – virtually anything that is proffered has no bearing whatsoever on the truth.

Perhaps, in the next few months, we may see some movement on openness, and leaders coming to some form of understanding what this Internet of Things is truly about, and they’ll accept it, but I can’t be quoted on this.

POTUS can’t really be held liable for what content, or lack thereof, his final State of the Union Address held or didn’t hold. There was a huge vacuum on a number of topics that he didn’t speak on He has been painted into corners his entire Presidency, but I think this last National address might be one of those corners where he’ll just have to wait until the paint dries.

He might come out swinging, or he might just sit his last few months out. I have my money on POTUS taking a fighting stance, and putting his name on a few more Presidential Orders, just to put his finger in an open wound or two…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Speech?

In order to defeat ISIS they need to stop funding it.

Of course that would defeat the purpose of having a handy terrorist scapegoat for their FBI manufactured terrorist plots. Then what would they do when they wanted a new law passed restricting people’s rights if they didn’t have the terrorist boogeyman to point to.

GEMont (profile) says:

PT Barnum for POTUS!!!

It’s a bit disappointing that the President never really came out with a strong leadership position on…

Its a bit disappointing that so many Americans still believe that ANY President can be an independent free thinker, capable of actually coming out as a strong leader on any position that does not benefit the billionaires that put him in office, but you really can fool all of the people most of the time and most of the people all of the time, so, while its disappointing, its really no big surprise.

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