President Barack Obama has been one of the most engaged presidents when it comes to the Internet. He hosted an AMA on Reddit that strained the site to near-breaking. He has weighed in on issues important to the Internet, and effectively used social media to campaign. Thursday evening, three popular YouTubers — Hank Green, GloZell Green and Bethany Mota — had the opportunity to interview the president during a #YouTubeAsksObama video event.
The questions ranged from tougher topics like drone strikes, institutional racism, North Korea and Cuba to what superpower the president would like to have. He said he’d like to be able to speak any language or fly as long as he could keep warm, by the way.
Hank Green’s viewers worried about the political feasibility of the issues raised in Obama’s State of the Union speech earlier this week, such as the development of the Internet. The president’s comments indicated that he considered the Internet a vital part of the American infrastructure, and that he would attempt to achieve bipartisan support for measures to strengthen it.
Additionally, Obama was of the belief that North Korea and Cuba could be increasingly democratized by the influence of the Internet. He told Hank Green:
The environment we’re speaking in today, the Internet, over time is going to be penetrating (North Korea), and it is very hard to sustain that kind of brutal authoritarian regime in this modern world. Information seeping in over time, and bringing about change.
In his interview with GloZell Green, Obama touched upon institutional racism among the police, noting that “federal muscle” would be put behind programs to root it out. He also noted that officers wearing body cameras could be a part of that solution and again pointed to the Internet functioning to bring democracy to Cuba, saying:
You get more visitors into Cuba, you start to get telecommunications into Cuba, you start getting the Internet into Cuba, people’s minds begin to change. There’s more transparency about what’s going on. And the goal ultimately is to make sure there’s freedom in Cuba, not just for the folks who have left.
The interview with Mota focused more on the things the government is doing to help younger people, such as college and loans programs. The issue of cyberbullying came up as a concern for Mota’s viewers, and Obama told Mota:
This is one case where your voice is more important than the president of the United States, because peers are going to have more influence than anybody.