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Neuland, German for “virgin territory,” is a term used by the German Chancellor Angela Merkel to describe the current state of the Internet during a joint press conference with President Barack Obama in Berlin on June 19th, 2013. Chancellor Merkel’s remark was instantly met by derisive comments on Twitter, with many German Internet users ridiculing her use of the term “neuland” as being out of touch with the progress that has been made in the field.
On June 19th, 2013, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President Barack Obama held a joint press conference in Berlin to conclude the latter’s three-day diplomatic trip to Europe. During the address, Chancellor Merkel was asked to comment on the U.S. National Security Agency’s PRISM surveillance scandal. to which she responded rather diplomatically:
“We talked about questions of the Internet in the context of PRISM. We talked at great length about the new possibilities and about also the new threats that the Internet opens up to all of us. The Internet is new territory, uncharted territory to all of us. And it also enables our enemies. It enables enemies of a free, liberal order, to use it, to abuse it, to bring a threat to all of us, to threaten our way of life. And this is why we value cooperation with the United States on questions of security.”
Within minutes after Chancellor Merkel’s speech, German-speaking Twitter users quickly began discussing her use of the term “neuland,” with some expressing incredulity at her comment and many others jokingly embracing the word with a slew of image macros and photoshopped images describing the fictional country.
Soon enough, novelty Twitter account @Neuland_Internet sprang up with tongue-in-cheek messages like "when I grow up I want to be Chancellor of #Neuland,” and “It is great that the #NSA carried out inspections across #Neuland.” On Tumblr, single topic blog News From Neuland was launched to document the multimedia parody phenomenon. In addition, a handful of parody animations and remix videos have also surfaced on YouTube.
As the hashtag #neuland continued to spread virally on Twitter and elsewhere, Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert eventually issued a statement via Twitter to clarify that the chancellor was specifically referring to “new territory for political debate.”
Zur Neuland-Diskussion: Worum es der Kanzlerin geht – Das Internet ist rechtspolitisches Neuland, das spüren wir im polit. Handeln täglich.— Steffen Seibert (@RegSprecher) June 19, 2013
The Telegraph – Angela Merkel refers to internet as ‘virgin territory’
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