Wednesday, February 10, 2010


The official Obama interview with YouTube's CitizenTube that showcased viewer questions to the President that were generated by the popular video-sharing site to solicit responses to the President's State of the Union Address may be perceived by some as a liberatory expression of direct democracy and individual freedom of speech, but this format actually gives the Chief Executive more message control, since questioners with canned videos or set statements can't ask follow-up questions in the way that a traditional bulldog journalist can.

Although Obama's YouTube interviewer proudly emphasized that the Commander in Chief had not been allowed to choose questions or to be briefed about them in advance, the results of the online voting system that was designed to make procedures transparent were almost certainly perused by the President's handlers.

Much funnier is the follow-up video of "The White House answers (more of) your questions" that features the less-than-fluent online presence of White House Director of New Media Macon Phillips. It is notable both for its technical glitches and for its odd vision of a White House in which no one over forty seems to work in the building.

In contrast, the fake hand-held camera aesthetic of CitizenTube's "behind the scenes" video was downright appalling. It included an actual plug for a product from YouTube's parent company Google Moderator in a crass moment of self-promotion.

Of course, I am not alone in expressing concern about the use of proprietary third-party software with questionable privacy policies like YouTube by the Executive Branch of the federal government. Siva Vaidhyanathan and Chris Soghoian have also weighed in with criticism about this issue.

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