Congress, Free Speech and Twitter

It appears that free speech, a basic tenet of our form of government, has fallen on hard times when it comes to Congress.

Twitter is blocked on Capitol Hill.

Forget the fact that FEMA uses it, forget the fact that NASA uses it, forget the fact that it could be an instant and excellent way to Members to communicate with constituents, or at least draw them into the debate, the Powers That Be on the Hill have blocked Twitter.

But there is hope, my friends. Have a visit to “Let Our Congress Tweet” and read all about the grassroots movement. Interesting. And while you are at at, have a visit to another site. Stop Blocking, Shel Holtz’s venture that makes the case for private corporatations to wise up and stop blocking types of Internet access for their employees.

Mark

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Comments

  1. Hmm…this wasn’t my understanding of this issue at all. From what I’ve read, the Franking Committee is trying to update the rules that govern how Congress communicates using these new tools. The recent hullabaloo stems from a letter sent addressing only video content, such as YouTube. There are serious issues that need to be addressed, in particular the appearance of “official” Congressional communications on sites that have commercial and political advertising. These aren’t small matters.

    I’m glad that the Franking Committee is working to update these rules, and I’m glad that they are taking their time about it.

    Honestly, I question the value of Twitter to a member of Congress anyway (this is after having worked in a Congressional office). Once constituents and advocacy groups decide that’s where they can get to them, the volume explodes and then they can’t respond anyway. It’ll get turned over to an intern in no time flat, and then where’s the value? How much true constituent communication can be transmitted in 140 characters, short of pointing them to content located elsewhere? If there are real constituent issues, there should be official correspondence anyway. When I handled constituent work, almost all had a file showing: issue, contacts, and resolution. Trying to accomplish official work through such informal channels is a problem when the issue needs to be escalated or turned over to another office.

    So far, the only “benefit” I’ve observed to the MOC currently using Twitter is their ability to get a bunch of folks whipped into a frenzy.

    Call me a Luddite if you wish–I think this is a non-issue that is being created by a Twitter-mob. We’re discussing this issue today on the Roundtable, and I know Sarah’s definitely in the opposite corner from me on this issue; should make for a lively discussion. I hope our guest can get a word in edgewise!

    Jen

  2. Jen,

    As usual you make good points, logical and well-presented. Can’t wait to hear the Roundtable today. I pity the guest who was pitted between you and Sarah!

    I plead two biases on this one. One, when trying to build a following on blog, never let facts get in the way of a good post.

    Second, I currently work for the government and have joined a group of federal government communicators. The one point that we all agree upon is that the legal eagles tend to block access to technologies based simply on the fact that they cannot understand them. What people cannot understand scares them. It sounds simple, but it has been what I have experience.

    And finally, like yourself, having worked in Washington (for a VERY long time), I could easily see Members using Twitter (when it’s up) to at least alert consituents to news releases or “accomplishments.”

    My two cents.

    And when do I get to rant and rave again on the Roundtable?!?!?!

    Mark

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