Facebooking Obama's Cabinet

The cyberstalking of Obama's administration has begun.

While many politicos have been speculating about how President Obama will tap technology to govern, some of the tools that propelled his campaign are already being used to monitor his transition team.

Obama announced some new staff pics on Wednesday. Within hours, Christina Bellantoni, who traveled with the Obama campaign for The Washington Times, was busy blogging their Facebook profiles. She found that Josh Gotbaum, who has the huge task of heading the "review team" at Treasury, has the right interests posted on his profile: "Fixing organizations, business, government, politics and singing." And while he only has 159 friends, one of them is Larry Summers. "Could be a tea leaf for Treasury Secretary, or could just mean they are pals," observes Bellantoni. And that's the thing about Facebook friends -- you never know whether they are real friends, or just wonks building a network for the next cabinet.


There's nothing novel about scrutinizing the incoming members of an administration, of course. For some reporters and political figures, though, Facebook may become the network to map Washington's social graph, especially as more young, tech-savvy Democrats take up important posts. Ben Smith, the widely read Politico blogger, ruminated on Facebook's emerging role in the presidential campaign back in the summer of 2007, noting that it might compromise sources:

[Y]ou can learn on Facebook which Times and Post reporters have friends on which campaigns. And that Phil Singer, Clinton aide and Facebook early adapter, is friends not just with the MSM, but with bloggers like John Aravosis and Ezra Klein... Obama insider Pete Giangreco has just a couple of reporter-friends, including Facebook wizard (434 friends, 330 more than me) Marc Ambinder[.] I'm waiting for the TechPresident guys to create a dynamic map of all these relationships....

Obama ultimately built a large, interlocking network of supporters across several sites, from Facebook and BlackPlanet to the official pages at MyBo. Now some members of his team will be inundated with attention, input and friend requests on their site of choice. They must focus on governing, of course, not curating their position in the social graph, but it will be interesting to see which prominent officials find a way to engage that interest and social capital.