Obama Issues Cybersecurity Order, Does Not Seize Control of Internet

<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/barackobamadotcom/7895140360/">Scout Tufankjian </a>/Flickr


Largely overlooked among President Obama’s State of the Union policy moves was a push to protect US infrastructure from cyberattacks. Earlier on Tuesday, the president signed an executive order that expands information-sharing between the government and private companies to, as he said in Tuesday night’s address, develop “standards to protect our national security, our jobs, and our privacy.” Conservatives and big business are warning of executive overreach—but in fact, the cybersecurity program gives companies more information than it requires from them, relies heavily on congressional support, and even makes civil liberties advocates happy

Under the order, companies that provide vital services like electricity and water—many of which are considered highly vulnerable to attacks—will be able to view classified government information on cyberthreats, but they aren’t required to share information when they get hacked. The order doesn’t require companies to participate, nor does it provide any financial incentives (yet), but that didn’t stop House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Rep. John McCaul, R-Texas, from warning that it could “open the door to increased regulations that would stifle innovation [and] burden businesses.” The U.S. Chamber of Commerce called the program “unnecessary.”

By contrast, civil libertarians such as the ACLU were relieved that the order emphasized privacy and civil liberties safeguards. Lee Tien, a senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told Forbes that “We definitely like the executive order better than last year’s Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act… The executive order can’t change any federal rules. It just changes the way the executive branch chooses to do things.”

In other words, Obama didn’t take over the Internet (that’s what Facebook is for.)

MORE HARD-HITTING JOURNALISM

In 2014, before Donald Trump announced his run for president, we knew we had to do something different to address the fundamental challenge facing journalism: how hard-hitting reporting that can hold the powerful accountable can survive as the bottom falls out of the news business.

Being a nonprofit, we started planning The Moment for Mother Jones, a special campaign to raise $25 million for key investments to make Mother Jones the strongest watchdog it can be. Five years later, readers have stepped up and contributed an astonishing $23 million in gifts and future pledges. This is an incredible statement from the Mother Jones community in the face of huge threats—both economic and political—against the free press.

Read more about The Moment and see what we've been able to accomplish thanks to readers' incredible generosity so far, and please join them today. Your gift will be matched dollar for dollar, up to $500,000 total, during this critical moment for journalism.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.