Personal Democracy Plus Our premium content network. LEARN MORE You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

In Latest Foray Online, President Obama Will Take Questions From Twitter [UPDATED]

BY Nick Judd | Thursday, June 30 2011

On July 6, the President of the United States will answer questions about jobs and the economy selected from those submitted via a Twitter hashtag, the White House announced on Twitter.

On a special Twitter-hosted splash page, Twitter promises that President Barack Obama's question-answering session will be streamed live online from 2 p.m. that day. Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey will moderate, White House New Media Director Macon Phillips and Twitter's vice president for communications, Sean Garrett, wrote during a public back-and-forth also on Twitter. Garrett writes that the process for surfacing questions will be fairly involved.

Update: Phillips delivered more detail in a conversation with the New York Times. The Times' Jen Preston reports that Twitter will be using a combination of their own search and curation tools and those of the company Mass Relevance, which offers a technology to do rule-based curation and presentation of Twitter posts. (h/t Alex Howard)

This is the latest leg in what seems to be Obama's ongoing tour of the Internet's largest communities. He has appeared on Google's YouTube multiple times to field questions selected from a gaggle submitted via Google Moderator and posed by Citizentube director Steve Grove. In April, he went to Facebook headquarters to answer questions from Facebook users and employees in another event hosted by Mark Zuckerberg, who did more joking around with Obama — such as during a bit where the commander-in-chief joshed Zuckerberg about wearing a jacket to the event — than real moderation.

The White House has been experimenting for some time when it comes to putting officials in front of the camera. As a tie-in with a May presidential speech on the Middle East, the White House hosted a question-and-answer session with Marc Lynch, the director of the Institute for Middle East Studies, NPR's Andy Carvin, and White House foreign policy adviser Ben Rhodes. The State Department also recently hosted a Twitter Q-and-A of its own, among other events.

While White House forays into live chat have been met with mixed results, the May event stands out for the speed, substance, and engagement of the conversation it started. That event with Carvin and Rhodes seems to have also stuck in the mind of Phillips, the White House new media director. He referenced it earlier this week in enthusiastic terms while speaking at a Brookings Governance event on social media in politics, when he was asked about how to engage a wider segment of the American public.

"It was really exciting for us to think about how we can blend traditional media and social media to reach people who really care about these issues," Phillips said.

He later added that it wasn't just about integrating new tools — it was about engaging people, understanding their response and having a conversation with them. The question, he said, was how to do that in domestic politics.

The variable that separates the YouTube events, the Middle East Q-and-A, and the Facebook townhall from one another is the one that has yet to be explained: How, exactly, moderation will work. During events with YouTube's Steve Grove, Obama was not asked the most popular questions in each subject — but the question list was there for all to see. (And, when questions about legalizing marijuana flooded into one event — as they often do — Grove asked one, and Obama fielded it with a substantive response.) During the event with Rhodes, the White House foreign policy adviser, moderators Carvin and Lynch had free reign to pick whichever questions came in online — but were asked to pay particular attention to ones coming from the Middle East.

These decisions all had a significant effect on each event's openness and the ease with which people could participate. How they play out at next week's event is likely to have a similar impact.

News Briefs

RSS Feed thursday >

Civic Hackers Call on de Blasio to Fill Technology Vacancies

New York City technology advocates on Wednesday called on the de Blasio administration to fill vacancies in top technology policy positions, expressing some frustration at the lack of a leadership team to implement a cohesive technology strategy for the city. GO

China's Porn Purge Has Only Just Begun, And Already Sina Is Stripped of Publication License

It seems that China is taking spring cleaning pretty seriously. On April 13 they launched their most recent online purge, “Cleaning the Web 2014,” which will run until November. The goal is to rid China's Internet of pornographic text, pictures, video, and ads in order to “create a healthy cyberspace.” More than 100 websites and thousands of social media accounts have already been closed, after less than a month. Today the official Xinhua news agency reported that the authorities have stripped the Internet giant Sina (of Sina Weibo, the popular microblogging site) of its online publication license. This crackdown on porn comes on the heels of a crackdown on “rumors.” Clearly, this spring cleaning isn't about pornography, it's about censorship and control.

GO

wednesday >

Another Co-Opted Hashtag: #MustSeeIran

The Twitter hashtag #MustSeeIran was created to showcase Iran's architecture, landscapes, and would-be tourist destinations. It was then co-opted by activists to bring attention to human rights abuses and infringements. Now Twitter is home to two starkly different portraits of a country. GO

What Has the EU Ever Done For Us?: Countering Euroskepticism with Viral Videos and Monty Python

Ahead of the May 25 European Elections, the most intense campaigning may not be by the candidates or the political parties. Instead, some of the most passionate campaigns are more grassroots efforts focused on for a start stirring up the interest of the European electorate. GO

At NETmundial Brazil: Is "Multistakeholderism" Good for the Internet?

Today and tomorrow Brazil is hosting NETmundial, a global multi-stakeholder meeting on the future of Internet governance. GO

Brazilian President Signs Internet Bill of Rights Into Law at NetMundial

Earlier today Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff sanctioned Marco Civil, also called the Internet bill of rights, during the global Internet governance event, NetMundial, in Brazil.

GO

tuesday >

Ruck.us Reboots As a Candidate Digital Toolkit That's a Bit Too Like Democracy.com

Ruck.us launched with big ambitions and star appeal, hoping to crack the code on how to get millions of people to pool their political passions through their platform. When that ambition stalled, its founder Nathan Daschle--son of the former Senator--decided to pivot to offering political candidates an easy-to-use free web platform for organizing and fundraising. Now the new Ruck.us is out from stealth mode, entering a field already being served by competitors like NationBuilder, Salsa Labs and Democracy.com. And strangely enough, Ruck.us seems to want its early users to ask Democracy.com for help. GO

Armenian Legislators: You Can Be As Anonymous on the 'Net As You Like—Until You Can't

A proposed bill in Armenia would make it illegal for media outlets to include defamatory remarks by anonymous or fake sources, and require sites to remove libelous comments within 12 hours unless they identify the author.

GO

monday >

The Good Wife Looks for the Next Snowden and Outwits the NSA

Even as the real Edward Snowden faces questions over his motives in Russia, another side of his legacy played out for the over nine million viewers of last night's The Good Wife, which concluded its season long storyline exploring NSA surveillance. In the episode titled All Tapped Out, one young NSA worker's legal concerns lead him to becoming a whistle-blower, setting off a chain of events that allows the main character, lawyer Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies), and her husband, Illinois Governor Peter Florrick (Chris Noth), to turn the tables on the NSA using its own methods. GO

The Expanding Reach of China's Crowdsourced Environmental Monitoring Site, Danger Maps

Last week billionaire businessman Jack Ma, founder of the e-commerce company Alibaba, appealed to his “500 million-strong army” of consumers to help monitor water quality in China. Inexpensive testing kits sold through his company can be used to measure pH, phosphates, ammonia, and heavy metal levels, and then the data can be uploaded via smartphone to the environmental monitoring site Danger Maps. Although the initiative will push the Chinese authorities' tolerance for civic engagement and activism, Ethan Zuckerman has high hopes for “monitorial citizenship” in China.

GO

The 13 Worst Bits of Russia's Current and Maybe Future Internet Legislation

It appears that Russia is on the brink of passing still more repressive Internet regulations. A new telecommunications bill that would require popular blogs—those with 3,000 or more visits a day—to join a government registry and conform to government-mandated standards is expected to pass this week. What follows is a list of the worst bits of both proposed and existing Russian Internet law. Let us know in the comments or on Twitter if we missed anything.

GO

More