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Twitterverse is Shocked, SHOCKED Obama Admitted to Never Using Twitter

BY Sarah Granger | Monday, November 16 2009

Those of us on the West Coast - or who stayed up extra late - were able to catch President Obama's town hall live on TV from China along with the accompanying Twitter chatter. There were some amazing nuggets from the town hall. It provided a genuine dialogue with the president, who opened up on his thoughts on everything from terrorism to the open Internet, but much of that will be lost in the Twitter streams the next day or so because Barack Obama admitted (*gasp*) that he has never used Twitter.

According to the Twitter stream, the president was answering a question about whether he thought the Chinese firewall was a good idea and whether Chinese people should be able to use Twitter. His response: "I have never used Twitter. My thumbs are too clumsy. But I'm a big believer in technology." Then he then went on to discuss the open Internet and why he thinks it's important to have unrestricted access (i.e. no censorship). "I'm a big supporter of not restricting Internet use, Internet access, Twitter." He used his own daughters as an example, citing that they can go online and learn about Shanghai; he also admitted the dangers of the Internet and how it can be used for ill as well as good.

The president didn't stop there. He also talked about Google and how without the Internet, that kind of innovation could never have happened. He spoke about his campaign and how much the Internet helped him reach people as a candidate. It was a wonderfully unscripted moment in his presidency and the first time we've heard him talk about the Internet like this. It was also bold on the part of the questioner.

Stepping back, I was reminded of my visit to the U.S.S.R. in 1989, a year before the Berlin wall fell. As an American student delegate, I was only able to meet officially with older students who were part of the Communist party, but music had been permeating into the culture there for a while; Western culture thrilled the Russian people I met on my own. It was like the taste of forbidden freedoms only made them want it more. It could very well be that the Great Firewall of China comes down in the not too distant future for similar reasons.

Meanwhile, I expect we'll see more hoopla about Barack Obama not using Twitter, even though his campaign never asserted that he did himself. So far about half of the follow-up tweets on the #obamacn hashtag are RT's about the admission and the other half is people responding that they never thought he was tweeting. Are 50% of Twitter users really that surprised?

As amazing as the movement for greater government participation online is, the majority of Americans are still easier to reach by television and through other online forms than Twitter and the time of the President of the United States is extremely valuable. The next generation of microblogging tools may be a better place to seek out participation at that level, but it's still reassuring to know we're hearing from his teams via @WhiteHouse and @BarackObama.

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