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Being a former President himself — with a wife whose department has been heavily involved with internet matters — Bill Clinton probably had heard of Barack Obama’s new proposal regarding the internet before it was released. However it seems Clinton has a few things to say.
In what seems like a “get-those-damned-kids-off-my-lawn” senior moment of not understanding the free-wheeling nature of the internet, Clinton last week made some rather startling calls.
In an interview that aired on US business news network, CNBC, Clinton called for the creation of a new US government agency tasked with fact-checking the internet. If the US government isn’t up to the task, Clinton sees no reason why the United Nations should not take on this important role.
When asked by the host, Maria Bartiromo if there was a role for government in terms of ensuring that the information on the web was accurate the former President replied as follows,
“Well, I think it would be a legitimate thing to do. But if you wanted to do it–for example, you wanted to set up some sort of agency that would be a — ring the bell, you know, or–on the heavily visited sites, ‘This allegation has been made and here are the facts.’ If the government were involved, I think you’d have to do two things, and — or if you had a multinational group like the UN.
I think number one, you’d have to be totally transparent about where the money came from. And number two, you would have to make it independent. It would have to be like an independent–let’s say the US did it, it would have to be an independent federal agency that no president could countermand or anything else because people wouldn’t think you were just censoring the news and giving a different falsehood out.
That is, it would be like, I don’t know, National Public Radio or BBC or something like that, except it would have to be really independent and they would not express opinions, and their mandate would be narrowly confined to identifying relevant factual errors. And also, they would also have to have citations so that they could be checked in case they made a mistake.
Somebody needs to be doing it, and maybe it’s a worthy expenditure of taxpayer money. But if it’s a government agency in a traditional sense, it would have no credibility whatever, particularly with a lot of the people who are most active on the Internet.”
For those of us, baffled as to how this would work, it is important to remember there are both literary and real-life examples of how such an agency would operate.
China, a shining example of what can be done when a government puts it’s mind to the task. Though some may have felt that social media is the new opposition in China, the Chinese government, has through a clever network of online commentators been able to get the real message, the truth, out there — which of course amongst other things is that the Dalai Lama is a dangerous man intent on overthrowing the government of China.
Of course if one wants an even better blueprint of how President Clinton’s agency would work, George Orwell gave us the perfect example in his seminal work “1984”, the Ministry of Truth.
Of course, there’s good reason why Clinton would want this, it would save politicians in this online-age from having to make defenses all the time when suspicious content about them pops up.