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Sweet U.S. DOJ Eases into the Social Media Age

BY Nancy Scola | Thursday, October 1 2009

Out with the old, and in with the far more awesomely domain-named The U.S. Department of Justice took the wraps off of a brand-new site this morning, a cleaner and ably designed vehicle for publicizing what the federal arm of the law is up to. To that end, the new site has your requisite 2.0 bits. Blogs new media director Tracy Russo on the, oh yeah, new Justice Blog, "Utilizing a variety of online tools, we will be able to share news and information, not just on our own web site, but through popular social networks Twitter, YouTube and MySpace and Facebook. The Justice presence on these social networks will allow Americans to interact with the Department in entirely new ways."

When it comes to new media, the Justice Department is in an interesting spot. It's far less a service agency than others in the federal universe. Much of its work is by nature secret and sensitive, and creating the impression that it is being swayed by public opinion -- generally a good thing in the open government world -- isn't exactly a desirable end for Uncle Sam's lawyers. The new social media presences are just getting started, so it remains to be seen what they'll be used for, but there's certainly plenty that DOJ's 100,000-plus employees are up to that can stand to be better shared and understood.

Of course, putting the Department of Justice on Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and the like has to make even the less conspiracy-minded among us wonder if they'll be tracking our every tweet. They know we're worried. A 2.0-ready privacy policy brands the social media hubs "open, un-moderated forums offered by commercial social network sites." After the hubbub over the White House's wrestling with Presidential Records Act requirements, DOJ is quick to note that "the Department does not collect, maintain or disseminate information posted here."