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Beyond Bill Clinton's Internet Truth Squad Idea...

BY Nancy Scola | Monday, May 16 2011

Bill Clinton is getting attention for floating the idea that what the Internet might need is some sort of NGO dedicated to assessing its truthfulness:

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.  

It's a bit of a shame, because Clinton's full interview with CNBC's Maria Bartiromo on the future of technology and security is generally a good read, with Clinton displaying that somewhat uniquely him quality of seeming to really understand a topic without necessarily getting all the details right. With a cybersecurity expert sitting by his side, Clinton discourses on everything from how the networked world is changing the nature of the corporation, whether technology is changing the metabolism, and his take on the lasting effects of Wikileaks. (On that last, "Most of that stuff didn't amount to a hill of beans, but nobody'll ever tell us anything again.")

If you're into this sort of thing, do give it a read. Whether or not you agree with him, he's got a way of provoking thought on such things.

Coincidentally(?), Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is slated this afternoon to help introduce the Obama administration's strategy for coping for international cybersecurity threats.