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Setting the Record Straight on Obama's New Media Team

BY Andrew Rasiej | Monday, March 2 2009

This morning there was an extensive piece published (on page three) in The Washington Post regarding the Obama Admisnistration’s web efforts. The article was titled, "Web-Savvy Obama Team Hits Unexpected Bumps: Issues of Technology, Security and Privacy Slow the New Administration's Effort to Foster Instant Communication," and it explores in some detail the efforts of Obama's new media team to deliver on the high expectations we all have for how they will use the internet.

I have huge respect for the writer Jose Antonio Vargas who has done terrific work covering the Internet and politics, but I need to point out that he (or his editors) left out a few words from my quote which ends the piece, and thus distorts my meaning.

My quote was related specifically to the Obama promise regarding posting bills on and allowing the public to comment 5 days before he signs any non-emergency legislation. Here's what I said to Jose, as he reported it:

“A lot more questions need to [be] addressed: Where do you insert the public comment portion in a bill? Do you start five days before the president signs it? Or do you start the moment Congress passes it?" asked Andrew Rasiej, founder of the political-tech site Personal Democracy Forum. He served as an adviser to the Obama transition's technology, innovation and government reform group. "As of right now, the comment section is like a black hole. Of course it's not enough by the standards of the Internet as we know it today."

There was one more sentence in what I said to Jose that followed, but it was left out of his piece. I added, "But they will get there."

Having served as an informal advisor to the technology and innovation and government reform group during the transition, I saw first-hand how difficult it is to quickly convert all of the federal government’s communications to the 21st century. Although there are challenges, the people working on it are some of the most qualified and dedicated people Obama could have chosen.

Many of us who follow the convergence of the Internet and government view what Obama's new media team is starting to do as a great first step and a sign that the Obama administration will move the federal government onto a parallel track with the rest of the world’s use of technology and make our democracy more participatory. I am highly impressed by the team's efforts so far.