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Here's the Latest on the White House Plan to Listen to 'We the People' Online

BY Nick Judd | Thursday, September 15 2011

White House New Media Director Macon Phillips answers questions that open government advocates have been collecting about We the People, the online petitions platform his team expects to roll out very soon.

The whole thing is an interesting read, but here's the White House answer to one of the questions, from the White House blog:

Q: According to the announcement, petitions can call for action by the federal government “on a range of issues”. That seems to imply that issues outside of this range may be off-limits. What, if any, guidelines will the White House provide to ensure participants know upfront which issues they can or cannot address via this tool? And Patrice McDermott (director of Open The Government) asks: “The other test is that range of issues [...] Is it going to be only issues that are only of political benefit to the White House, or — who designs that, and how’s it going to be limited, and will it change over time?”
A: We the People was designed to be a way for people to petition us about actions that fall within the scope of the federal government. To keep the conversation focused, people will be presented with a broad range of issues that fall within this scope. We are also open to suggestions for additional topics. So please give us your feedback.

Additionally, it is important to note that while topics are defined, viewpoints are not. Setting up We the People in a way that only yielded petitions that praised the Administration or shared our opinions would neither be productive or interesting. So there are no restrictions on the point of view advanced by a petition-in fact, we expect to receive more petitions that disagree with government policies than we do petitions that support them.

In the humblebraggy way you're supposed to do on Twitter — you've seen these tweets; an example of the genre would be something like, "Just had lunch with Jesus Christ, my tuna niçoise was overcooked" — Phillips has been pointing it out as he has real-world meetings with people who might have information to offer about the initiative. Those folks include Jim Gilliam, whose White House 2 experiment imagined a White House online presence for the 21st century, and Jake Brewer, formerly of the Sunlight Foundation, who was a vocal skeptic of the "We the People" initiative on the day of its launch.

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