Did Obama Censor Difficult Questions?

Mr. Obama’s website has recently added a new feature called Open Government, allowing website visitors to propose new questions for Mr. Obama and vote for the ones most relevant to the American people. The latest forum is now closed, but during its tenure, the website staff appear to have been censoring visitors’ ability to ask certain questions to Mr. Obama, preventing them from being voted on by the software’s collaborative scoring system. I’ve included two screenshots below, showing that a search for “assault weapons” suspiciously returns zero results, while a search leaving off the leading “a”, e.g. “ssault weapons”, brings up several results. This is one of many hot topics, as there is nationwide concern about a new firearms ban and what its implications would mean to the recent 2nd Amendment SCOTUS case of DC v. Heller. Similar searches, such as “assault” and “ban”, “assault” and “atf”, or “assault” and “rifle” seem to also return empty results unless part of the spelling is removed.

Not so strangely, a search for “gay marriage” returns plenty of results, so the issue obviously isn’t one of multi-word searches. Longer multi-word queries such as “environmental protection” return results too, so the problem isn’t one of query length. This suggests that someone in Obama’s transition team might have hard-coded certain key words to return empty, leaving those questions to rot at the bottom of the pit. It is uncertain just how many votes were cast on these questions, and whether they were voted on before this suspicious behavior started. Clearly when the questions could be found, they were considered good questions to ask.

Just how much confidence can we put in an administration that censors the thoughts and concerns of the American people? How closely does this kind of rigging of a public agenda parallel to the rigging of elections? The answer is, if you can control the media, you won’t need to rig an election. I wonder what other topics are suspiciously returning no matches? After the Obama administration sought to destroy Joe the Plumber’s credibility, it seems as if the American people are being discouraged in many ways from asking any serious questions.

Search for “assault weapons”
(Results are censored)
Search for “ssault weapons”
(Results are not censored)

About Jonathan Zdziarski

Respected in his community as an iOS forensics expert, Jonathan is a noted security researcher, penetration tester, and hacker. Author of many books ranging from machine learning to iPhone hacking and software development, Jonathan frequently trains many federal and state law enforcement agencies in digital forensic techniques and assists law enforcement and the military in high profile cases. Jonathan is also inventor on several US patent applications, father of DSPAM and other language classification technology, and an App Store developer. All opinions expressed on this website are the author's own. Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @JZdziarski
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