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

The White House and WebMD

BY Nancy Scola | Tuesday, July 6 2010

As new-media friendly as the Obama White House has been, they haven't always been all that eager to mix it up in the political blogosphere, navigating that world for advantage and community-building. They've tried that route, in fits and starts, to be sure. But we've seen over the first year and a half of the Obama presidency a sort of complementary strategic approach to engaging with the online world by avoiding the more political, or at least more partisan parts of it: figuring out what are the solid brands who are recognized as online conveners of public opinion, and piggybacking on that brand to get access to their audiences.

We saw it, for example, with how HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius took online questions on the impact of health care reform on families in December in partnership with the women-focused BlogHer blogging community. In May, bloggers from the popular Consumerist blog, affiliated with Consumers Union, got an invite to the White House to discuss credit card reform with White House economist Austen Goolsbee. The hope, on the White House's part, is that by going straight-after issue-focused online communities, they can (a) avoid some of the high-drama of the political blogosphere and (b) take advantage of the work those communities have done to pull together an audience with similar interests.

All of that is several words spilled to point to the news that the Obama White House is trying the tactic once again, this time as part of its effort to make the new HealthCare.gov a better website. (I profiled the at-launch version of the federal health care hub here, and all involved admit that the site's success depends on its improvement.) Who better to convene a discuss about how you present medical information well online than the folks over at WebMD, one of the most major of brands in the online health space? Tomorrow at noon, Sebelius will take part in a Google Moderator-powered episode of the Obama White House's Open for Questions, with WebMD's Kristy Hammam playing the role of MC and lead questioner. Hammam knows the field, as WebMD's point person for determining which content goes up on their popular sites.

News Briefs

RSS Feed today >

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

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

Transparency and Public Shaming: Pakistan Tackles Tax Evasion

In Pakistan, where only one in 200 citizens files their income tax return, authorities published a directory of taxpayers' details for the first time. Officials explained the decision as an attempt to shame defaulters into paying up.

GO

More