Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Restricting Congressional Tweets?

Texas Congressman John Culberson has posted a link to a letter by Michael E. Capuano, the Chair of the Congressional Franking Comission and Congressman from Massachusetts, which Culberson claims will require prior approval for posts to non-governmental websites resulting in

No more live [Qik] videos - no more live Tweets from the House floor or anywhere in the Capitol - no more www communication w/o prior approval

Here is a link to the document. I’ve posted the relevant recommendations below:

House recommendations on use of outside web sites
I like Culberson, and I wish more of our governmental officials would embrace web communication technologies in the way that he has. However, I wonder if he is overreacting to this document. Unless he is referring to some other as yet unpublished communication, it’s difficult to find the rules he is complaining about in the actual document. The document itself refers explicitly to online video, advocating the establishment of a dedicated congressional channel on a web video site (YouTube, I presume, although the letter isn’t specific) for House members to publish video content. The first and third recommendations would require the videos to be compatible with existing House communication rules, while the second encourages (it doesn’t require) the channel to not show ads, and the fourth suggests the establishment of some kind of rules for posting on non-governmental sites. Those rules all seem sane to me, but here’s Culberson’s take:

Dem "Supreme Soviet" leadership of House would have to approve every Twitter before I could post it!!

I just don’t see that in this document (although more documents might be forthcoming). And, frankly, I find the name-calling and the implication that there is some sort of conspiracy of silence being put in place by the “Dems” a little hard to take from a member of Dick Cheney’s party.

Update: Culberson says:

Look at page two - note each Twitter etc must meet "existing content rules and regulations" that means prior approval/rewrite

However, Culberson notes that this rule applies to almost anything he says, acknowledging that his phone conversations should be censored. Of course, they aren’t censored, making it difficult for me to see how this new ruling about video posts will lead to censored Twitter streams.


John Culberson said...

Heres how the House leadership will use this rule to control where and what I say and even exercise influence over your website/blog etc

If the Ds rule change were in effect today, before I could post this, your website/blog would have to be preapproved as complying with House rules, my post would require a disclaimer that it was "produced by a House office for official purposes," and the CONTENT of my post would have to be preapproved by the House Franking Committee as complying with "existing content rules and regulations."

This is a violation of your First Amendment rights and mine, and is an outrageous attempt by House leadership to stifle and control you and me. If Rs were in charge I would be just as outraged - forget the party label - I do not want the federal gov't/House of Representatives certifying your website or the content of my posts. I am writing this post personally, in my official capacity, so it would fall precisely under their new rule and you and I would both be in violation unless we subjected ourselves and my words to their prior approval/editing.

I am always ready to admit I am wrong but I am an attorney and this is what the letter means.

This is a story worth following because I am going to continue to vigorously exercise my First Amendment rights on every social media outlet I can reach. It is my right as an American and my duty as a representative.


John Culberson

John Jones said...

I think it would be awful if you were not allowed to use Twitter or post to Qik, etc. However, I’m just not convinced that this document mandates that the draconian measures you describe will be implemented.

You claim that the censorship you describe would be a result of “existing content rules and regulations.” If that is the case, this isn’t a rule change. These censorship rules already exist. According to you, all of your communication should be censored now—Tweets, phone calls, videos—yet it is not. If these rules are already in place, then the push should be to change these existing rules, not to throw a fit about this letter.