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miércoles, 28 de febrero de 2018

Barack Obama talks internet censorship, climate change and his ‘scandal-free’ presidency in leaked audio

Former President Barack Obama hasn’t quietly descended into private life like many of his predecessors — but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to keep some of his post-presidency activities under wraps.

Obama gave a speech at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on Friday that was, oddly, intended to be off-the-record. An inevitable recording of the speech was leaked, however, in which Obama can be heard doubling down on climate change, the dangers of unregulated social media platforms, praising government employees’ work ethics and even wistfully looking back on his own administration as free of “scandal” and “drama” — at least, free of anything he’s “embarrassed” by.

“Shaping Our Culture”

Former President Obama spoke at a heavily-attended sports analytics conference at MIT on Friday, requiring his audience to sign confidentiality agreements mandating that they refrain from recording, photographing, or tweeting the event, Reason magazine reported. But the magazine obtained a recording of the speech anyway. You can listen here.

Among Obama’s talking points was a notion that internet giants Facebook, Google, and Twitter are “a public good as well as a commercial enterprise.”

While they are a “hugely powerful potential force for good,” Obama said, the former president suggested they ought to be moderated.

“Our social media platforms are just a tool,” Obama said. He continued:

ISIS can use that tool. Neo-Nazis can use that tool. I do think the large platforms — Google and Facebook being the most obvious, Twitter and others as well, are part of that ecosystem — have to have a conversation about their business model that recognizes they are a public good as well as a commercial enterprise. They’re not just an invisible platform, they’re shaping our culture in powerful ways.

The former president further suggested that the platforms may be corroding the American democracy.

“Essentially we now have entirely different realities that are being created with not just different opinions, but now different facts,” Obama said. He added:

And this isn’t just by the way Russian inspired bots and fake news. This is Fox News vs. The New York Times editorial page. If you look at these different sources of information, they do not describe the same thing. In some cases, they don’t even talk about the same thing. And so it is very difficult to figure out how democracy works over the long term in those circumstances.

While Obama was sure to clarify that he didn’t endorse extreme levels of media censorship, as is seen in China, he did suggest that the government should be involved in putting “basic rules of the road in place that create level playing fields.”

But potential internet censorship wasn’t the only talking point on the former president’s agenda. Obama also discussed climate change — reiterating how he can’t have a conversation with someone who disagrees with his definition of climate change — and even basketball in his speech before promising that government employees work harder than those in the private sector.

“At least at the top levels of the federal government, people work harder than in the private sector,” he said. “When I came out of the White House, everything looked like it was in slow motion. I felt like I was Neo in The Matrix. Our folks were putting in 80-hour work weeks and barely getting vacations and under unimaginable pressure.”

Not embarrassed by scandals

Obama also told conference attendees that his administration was largely scandal-free, all thanks to its diversity.

“We didn’t have a scandal that embarrassed us,” the former president said. Though he admitted that his administration made mistakes, Obama maintained that it had no massive screw-ups. “I know that seems like a low bar,” he said, to laughter.

“Generally speaking, you didn’t hear about a lot of drama inside our White House,” Obama said, before adding that harboring diversity is the key to a successful administration. “In today’s culture, if you are not deliberately doing that [promoting diversity], you are going to fall behind, and someone is going to beat you.”

The former president is apparently not embarrassed about the many scandals of his administration, including, but not limited to, his attorney general being held in contempt of Congress, the “Fast and Furious” gun running scandal, his IRS targeting conservative groups, the Benghazi debacle, and his broken Obamacare promises.

The 44th president may have forgotten these and other scandals — but conservatives surely haven’t. And we aren’t about to let him off the hook anytime soon.