White House Director of New Media Macon Phillips is taking heat for a seemingly innocuous blog post Tuesday morning on whitehouse.gov titled "Facts Are Stubborn Things" in which he suggests that Americans tattle on their neighbors.
His intentions are good. There is a ton of incorrect (if not blatantly fabricated) information circulating on the web about the President's Health Care Reform positions. The White House staff would certainly benefit from getting in front of this disinformation (like claims that the President's reform bill would eliminate current private health plans). But suggesting that if Americans "get an email or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy" that they should "send it to firstname.lastname@example.org" puts the administration in a very vulnerable position. And the criticism is already coming.
In a letter to President Obama, Senator John Cornyn (R- Texas) raises questions of First Amendment rights of free speech, warns that the policy raises "the specter of a data collection program" and calls for it's immediate end. And he's right.
I've not been shy about the fact that I'm in the tank for the current administration, and I'm constantly encouraged with it's adoption of new media communication methods, but I think Mr. Phillips is missing the boat on the spirit of the "open communication community" which is based on transparency and collaboration...not McCarthyism.
I'd propose that the White House expand their "New Media" department, and use a handful of TARP dollars to hire a dozen currently unemployed, new media savvy "watchdogs" to scour Twitter and YouTube, etc for posts about Health Care reform (or any other issues, for that matter). The White House would be well served to keep a finger on the pulse of the publicly posting public anyway.