*Welcome to the new administration. Dissent will not be tolerated. Makes you wonder…*
President-elect Barack Obama’s Transition today launched “Open for Questions,” a Digg-style feature allowing citizens to submit questions, and to vote on one another’s questions, bringing favored inquiries to the top of the list.
It was suggested when it launched that the tool would bring uncomfortable questions to the fore, but the results so far are the opposite: Obama’s supporters appear to be using — and abusing — a tool allowing them to “flag” questions as “inappropriate” to remove all questions mentioning Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich from the main pages of Obama’s website.
The Blagojevich questions — many of them polite and reasonable — can be found only by searching words in them, like “Blagojevich,” which produces 35 questions missing from the main page of the site.
“Given the current corruption charges involving Blagojevich, will ‘serious’ campaign finance reform that takes money completely out of politics through publicly funded elections be a priority in the first term?” asked Metteyya of Santa Cruz, California.
“This submission was removed because people believe it is inappropriate,” reads the text underneath it.
Also removed as “inappropriate”:
“In light of the recent corruption scandals (Blagojevich, Rangel, Jefferson, Stevens, etc) that have dominated the political scene,is there any ethics legislation being crafted to actually curb corruption and prevent another wave of nixonian cynicism?”, a question from “lupercal,” of Gainesville.
And: “Is Barack Obama aware of any communications in the last six weeks between Rod Blagojevich or anyone representing Rod Blagojevich and any of Obama’s top aides?”, a question from Phil from Pennsylvania.
Declaring a question “inappropriate” is different from merely voting it down; it’s calling foul on a question, not just disapproving of it.
Community reporting systems like this are often vulnerable to abuse from committed partisans — YouTube has wrestled with a parallel problem — and the only solution is conscious efforts to remedy it.
So far, Obama’s team does not seem to have stepped in to allow uncomfortable questions to rise to the top, and instead is allowing his supporters to sanitize the site.