Quick, who’s Richard O’Dwyer?
O’Dwyer was the subject of the top-vote getter among 133,000 questions submitted for a Google+ Hangout chat with U.S. President Barack Obama. O’Dwyer is facing extradition from the United Kingdom for running a site called TVShack that posted pirated TV shows and movies. His site was shut down after he was arrested by British and U.S. authorities.
President Obama answered questions from five people who were selected to chat with him live (see this nice write-up on The Atlantic). But he also answered questions that were voted on by nearly a quarter of a million Internet users. That O’Dwyer was the top-rated question is a testament to the ongoing concern about free speech online. Just in the last two weeks we’ve seen massive online protests against the Stop Online Piracy Act and street protests in Poland about the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. And one of the president’s live chatters also asked him about piracy laws.
The most popular question, posed by Michael Mozart, was this (see 41:18 of the video)
“Why are you personally supporting the extradition of British citizen Richard O’Dwyer for solely linking to copyright-infringing works using an extradition treaty designed to combat terrorism and to bring terrorists to judgment in the USA?”
Obama skirted the question, saying that
“I’m not personally doing anything; I want to make sure everybody understands. One of the ways our system works is that the president doesn’t get involved with prosecution decisions or extradition decisions and this has been a decision by the justice department.”
O’Dwyer’s mother told The Guardian that Obama had given a “typical politician’s response.” But she also appealed to him to stop the extradition, saying “it’s up to Mr Obama to put a stop to the ridiculous and appallingly harsh attempts to extradite Richard, and others facing similarly unnecessary treatment.”
Obama was probably relieved not to have to face the second most popular question, about whether it was time for the U.S. to legalize marijuana.