THE BLOG
06/13/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Twitter Tells White House: No More Transparency

Moments after Barack Obama was inaugurated the 44th president of the United States on January 20, 2009, the White House blog was born with a call to action written by new media director Macon Phillips that the administration's "online programs will put citizens first" through the tenets of communication, transparency, and participation.

Among other initiatives in the months since, the White House entered a new phase on May 1, 2009 with another blog entry announcing social networking transparency on numerous feeds, including @WhiteHouse on Twitter:

...[the President] called on government to "recognize that we cannot meet the challenges of today with old habits and stale thinking." He added that "we need to reform our government so that it is more efficient, more transparent, and more creative," and pledged to "reach beyond the halls of government" to engage the public.

On Tuesday afternoon, May 12, 2009, Twitter effectively told the White House: No More Transparency!

Here you can read for yourself what Twitter co-founder Biz Stone wrote:

The White House Twitter account is fairly new, but the citizen participation team running it is already announcing livestreams, retweeting NASA, and pointing people to agency websites.

If history repeats itself, @WhiteHouse may follow the lead of @MassGovernor and @Schwarzenegger and reply to constituents.

The problem with this new Twitter update is if you follow the White House on Twitter and the White House replies to someone directly, e.g. @someone blah blah blah, you won't see it unless you are also following @someone.

Let me say that again, looking at Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick's feed.

See these tweets where Patrick replied to individual requests for MBTA plans, school aid, and crime? Under Tuesday morning's Twitter protocols, you could follow @MassGovernor and read all of his replies to everyone--but under yesterday afternoon's updated protocols, you can only see @ reply tweets to people you also follow.

And that, my friends, is a prime example of Twitter telling the people--you and me--that we can no longer read what the White House says online. That is, while we can visit twitter.com/whitehouse and view everything, we can not see in their replies like we could any other tweet. Because transparency is not merely reading tweets that are broadcast out or to "discover" people referenced inside a tweet, but replies to individual requests. No more.

Twitter is now contrary to everything the White House is trying to accomplish, let alone any other government agency, business, or individual using Twitter to engage. That's a shame.

If you'd like to add your voice to the opposition, a bandwagon of users are forming to request satisfaction. Will Biz listen and react?

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