Saturday, February 19, 2011

Obama asks Silicon Valley execs to be careful with public comments, given Middle East turmoil

President Obama met with the CEO’s and leaders of major high tech companies yesterday in Silicon Valley, and none of them talked about it much online.  The companies included Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Apple.  One reason for the hush: probably the fact that the companies’ products have gotten so much use in stirring up political protests in the Middle East.

The sorry fact is – as documented in Friedman’s “The Next Decade” – that the US government tends to prop up rulers who can keep stability and keep the oil flowing (yes, it’s about oil) even if they repress their own people with rigid political, religious or social hierarchies that would be unacceptable in the West.  That was the case with the Shah of Iran back in the 70s, 

The latest is that Libya (and maybe Bahrain) are trying to tamper with cellular and Internet access. 

It’s amazing that social media – which were designed as “connectors” for social networks – have become tools for political uprising much more than publishing services (Blogger, Wordpress) have.  One reason may be that, especially in the case of Facebook, the social media companies have made so much money. It’s a lesson that Donald Trump is right: sometimes business and money really do drive social change to follow later.  

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