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Twitter Campaign Lauds Laxer Rules For Congress 2.0

Let Our Congress Tweet, they say

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Though many were disappointed yesterday in Representative John Culberson’s (R-TX) partisan scapegoating via Twitter, he did sort of fall backwards over an important issue. The issue wasn’t that Democrats were seeking to abridge Congressional freedom of speech as it related to Web 2.0 applications, but that Congressional freedom of speech had already been abridged via previously established draconian gag rules.
 

Culberson’s outburst had good timing though. That same day (yesterday), The Sunlight Foundation registered LetOurCongressTweet.org. They launched a Twitter petition immediately.

How’s that for lightening-fast activism?

The people behind the Sunlight Foundation, though, are what you might call "Internet savvy." See if you recognize these names: board members Craig Newmark and Esther Dyson; advisors Lawrence Lessig, Kim Scott, and Jimmy Wales; funding in part by the Omidyar Network.

In case you don’t recognize their names, here are some others they’re associated with: craigslist, CNET, Stanford, Google, Wikipedia, eBay. Sort of a who’s-who of successful Web ventures.

They appear to believe Culberson was right about his outrage against what were later revealed to be existing regulations, even if he sort of shot the wrong dog (or donkey, if you will). LetOurCongressTweet thinks the rules should be changed, too, and have launched what could be the first ever petition via Twitter.

Twitterers passionate about the subject are asked to tweet this message:

Congress, change the rules. Talk to us on our social networks. http://LetOurCongressTweet.org Let our Congress Tweet! #LOCT08

It does seem rather un-American that US legislators are supposed to have their messages to the masses approved by some higher content authority, and those messages are to be posted on officially approved channels. One can imagine there must be some national security argument, or at least the rationale that some pre-publishing consultation will prevent Congressmen from tweeting their false alarms.

But still. . .

I doubt my own sentiments yesterday (though I haven’t yet thrown them out), that a person cannot simultaneously be a legislator and a member of the press/citizen media. 1.) Legislators should be too busy for that. 2.) How does a dog watch itself?

But the idea of governmental transparency, a direct pipeline to remote Congressmen, two-way open conversations, and virtual town hall discussions are all beautiful concepts dripping with American idealism—you know, that dream (that myth) of power and voice residing with the people, how Congress works for you and not against you.   

Robin Sloan nearly convinces me it’s possible in this piece about former House member Matthew Smoot’s pioneering of an online forum for his district to chat about what was important to them. This passage was choice:

Tad Clawson emerged from the codebase to write a signature post that articulated what we’d all been thinking:

"Direct democracy or representative republic? It’s a false dichotomy. With these new tools, we can harness the best of both: Matt is as much a communicator as he is a legislator. Maybe that’s what representatives should become: Nodes where the collective intelligence of their district comes together, coalesces, and finds expression.

This is a smart country."

Of course, like forums often do, Smoot’s Forum 12 became an unwieldy battleground he wouldn’t have had time for anyway once he reached the Senate side of the Capitol. (Apparently, Senators are busier than Representatives, not having time to run forums or watch "Lost" in their pajamas—you should read Robin’s essay; it’s a revealing one.)

But still. . .

It’s a good idea, right?

And hey, it just might work. Four hours ago, Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN) tweeted his first message, and once he was finished with an energy policy discussion (what? you think all he has time for is Twitter?), he signed (tweeted) the petition statement to change the rules. Not bad for the first day.
 

 Update: Looks like the Speaker of the House is on board, too, via her blog.

Twitter Campaign Lauds Laxer Rules For Congress 2.0
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