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Viruses and Viralness: Obama on Using Social Media to Fight Swine Flu

BY Nancy Scola | Saturday, May 2 2009

Give the White House credit for knowing exactly the sort of snark many folks are prepared to heap upon them for joining Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter. What exactly, some will no doubt ask, is the President of the United States doing poking and tweeting and [insert whatever it is you do on MySpace]? Doesn't he have better things to do? The White House had an answer prepared right from the start: President Obama's not messing around on the Internets in some ill-considered attempt to look super with-it. He's tweeting to stop the spread of a global pandemic. Okay with you?

The White House new media team has a powerful spokesperson for their efforts: Obama himself. In this weekend's video address, he briefly makes the presidential case for the power of social media in the context of halting the spread of swine flu/H1N1 (at about the 1:40 mark):

We have asked every American to take the same steps you would take to prevent any other flu: keep your hands washed; cover your mouth when you cough; stay home from work if you're sick; and keep your children home from school if they're sick. And the White House has launched pages in Facebook, MySpace and Twitter to support the ongoing efforts by the CDC to update the public as quickly and effectively as possible.

Somewhat relatedly, here's a sign that the White House is aware of at least some of our Internet traditions, including the Twitter custom of taking Friday's to recommend people for others to follow. A tweet from @whitehouse yesterday:

#followfriday Official info on H1N1: @CDCemergency @CDC_eHealth @whonews @BirdFluGov @dhsjournal @usedgov Thanks for the positive feedback!

The question is, will @BirdFluGov follow @whitehouse back? Stay tuned.