The Sciences

Obama Changes His View (Or, at Least, His Web Site) On Technology

Reality BaseBy Melissa LafskySep 24, 2008 5:21 PM

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If there's one thing this election season has taught us, it's that there's no hiding in the Internet—and that includes politicians vying for the nation's highest offices. For starters, of all the criticisms of McCain's views, record, character, and policies, one of the stickiest so far has been his self-proclaimed inability to use the Web. Then last week brought Yahoomail-gate, with the infamous hacker group Anonymous accessing VP hopeful Sarah Palin's personal e-mail account, revealing to the world that she did indeed use her personal e-mail for official business, and that she liked to send and receive pictures of her kids. (Scandalous!) A quick and dirty FBI investigation soon indicated that the hacker may be none other than the son of Democratic Tennessee state representative Mike Kernell. Equally diligent watchdogs also noticed some strange happenings over on Obama's official campaign Web site—the prominence of which we've discussed before. It started when a Slashdot reader noted that substantial chunks of text had been removed from the technology section of the candidate's site, particularly the section on net neutrality. Concerned Web users soon compiled a detailed comparison of the two versions, and buzz began spreading across cyberspace: Had Obama changed his view on the importance of net neutrality? Was VP nominee Joe Biden—who's been a "hesitant supporter" of pro-net neutrality legislation—urging the campaign to relax its commitment to protect public media? In a rush to quell doubts—or maybe just do damage control—an Obama campaign rep quickly circulated a statement asserting that the site revisions weren't indicative of any official changes, and offering an updated technology plan that reflected no material differences in policy. It wasn't hard to predict that Obama's warm embrace of technology throughout the election might bring a double-edged sword—specifically, that his campaign would have to arm itself with watchdogs charged with putting out Web fires not only from hostile sources, but also from diligent supporters that can and will catch any slip-up. Nominees, you've been forewarned: The Internet is watching.

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