Defenders of the White House actions said the Presidential Records Act requires that the administration gather the information and that it was justified in taking the additional step of asking a private contractor to "crawl and archive" all such material. Nicholas Shapiro, a White House spokesman, declined to say when the practice began or how much the new contract would cost.
Susan Cooper, a spokeswoman for National Archives and Records Administration, said the presidential records law applies to "social media" and to public comments "received by the president or immediate staff."
On more than one occassion, President Obama has promised to "ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation and collaboration." In addition, during his campaign the then-senator also pledged he would "strengthen privacy protections for the digital age" and "harness the power of technology to hold government and business accountable for violations of personal privacy." [# More #]
In fact, Obama went so far as to tell PC Magazine he was concerned with "open information platforms of the 21st Century" tempting institutions to violate the privacy of users. "We need sensible safeguards that protect privacy in this dynamic new world."
The proposal issued Aug. 21 calls for a contractor to "crawl and archive" social-networking Web sites where the White House maintains an official presence on seven networks: Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Flickr, YouTube, Vimeo and Slideshare.
The collection will include the comments, tags, graphics, audio and video posted by users who don't work for the White House.
The White House has more than 333,000 fans on Facebook, and posts updates several times a day that draw hundreds of thousands of comments, both positive and negative. The White House has more than 1 million followers on Twitter and more than 87,000 subscribers on YouTube, where more than 400 videos of the president and White House briefings are posted.