THE BLOG

Obama and the World Wide Web War

13/09/2013 10:46 BST | Updated 12/11/2013 10:12 GMT

Last week I was "down 'n' dirty with the digital dudes".

I beg your pardon?

I was speaking at the Internet conference "Silicon Beach 2013" in the warmth of Bournemouth. It was hot and sunny with occasional cloud, which pretty much sums up the presentations too.

There were smart people aplenty and, to be frank, the occasional oddball. And why not? The Internet itself holds multiple personalities.

It holds as many personalities as there are people using it, because it has emerged to be the most human of all inventions.

It has, uniquely amongst the long and illustrious list of top human achievements, claimed a position at the bottom of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. Having access to it is now a physiological need. The Internet has become a characteristic of the normal functioning of our lives, just a tiny notch above the things without which would cause our demise: breathing, food, water and sleep, but on the same level as the physiological need for stability and sex.

It has truly become an extension of man. It is an evolutionary development every bit as significant as the opposable thumb.

No wonder that on 16th May 2011 the United Nations Communiqué A/HRC/17/27 recommended that access to the Internet and mobile communications be a basic human right and that disconnecting people from the Internet was a violation and against international law.

The United Nations therefore supports Internet access to all humans as much as it supports Peace, Goodwill and Understanding.

For years the Internet was seen as a democratizing force and Social Media, specifically, was upheld as The Great Leveller. However, in a spectacular confusion of terminology, social network, socialising and socialism have merged into one, and became a kind of watery version of "Power To The People".

Sure, we have seen that the Internet can harness positivity from millions, create change and bring people together.

But at the same time we have seen it lie, deceive, bully, torment, debase and cheat.

As much as it is a tool for mass understanding, it is a weapon for misunderstanding.

Back to the United Nations, and the September 11th Press Statement of the independent international Commission of Inquiry for the Syrian Arab Republic.

Citing on-going incidents of murder, rape, torture, widespread attacks on civilians and hostage-taking committed by Syrian forces and anti-Government armed groups, a United Nations-appointed human rights probe reported that "the perpetrators of these violations and crimes, on all sides, act in defiance of international law. They do not fear accountability."

For many years War was fought over Territory. In the Star Wars Age it was fought over Time. Now it's fought over Truth. Fingering "The Liar" now equates to having your finger on "The Button".

As an extension of man, the Internet can raise and distort the levels of Fact and Fiction to an unprecedented pitch.

With equal access to Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and the rest, the innocent and the guilty now plead their cases with such veracity as to stun behemoths of every hue into silence and standstill.

Behemoths like the United States, a big and powerful country with the ability to extend its reach into the entrails of the Internet and read and hear our global chitchat.

History will judge President Obama in many ways but surely the most significant way will be this. He is the first President making truly digital decisions in the Digital Age. His behaviour - start, stop, start, stop, think, start, think, stop is purely digital.

He is using signals of information represented by discrete and different values of distinctive quantity, but often of unknown quality.

The World Wide Web turned twenty-one under Obama's watch. It's growing up and becoming more mature by the day.

Despots and democrats alike wield it as instinctively as we use our opposable thumbs.

Obama's advisors will be developing web-based weapons that strike to the Truth quicker than ever before.

Only in so doing can all the mandates and communiqués of the United Nations be upheld.