Obama Gets Geeky With YouTube Channel and Net Background Checks
By JR Raphael
The man who built a high-tech campaign out of the concept of “change” is already bringing Internet technology into his administration. President-elect Barack Obama has announced plans for a presidential YouTube channel, along with plans for thorough social network and blog screenings as part of potential staffers’ background checks. If you’ve so much as left a questionable comment on a blog somewhere, you might be disqualified. Think you could pass?
First up, the YouTube channel. The Obama administration revealed plans Friday to broadcast the weekly presidential addresses to YouTube — the first time such addresses have been delivered in a video format. (President Bush put audio of his speeches on the White House Web site, but video was never included.) The Webcasts will begin this weekend with the Saturday Democratic address and will continue once Obama takes over the presidency. The videos will also be posted on Obama’s transition Web site, Change.gov. Question-and-answer sessions and interviews are expected to eventually be offered as well.
The Presidential Tech Test
Now, onto those tests: The New York Times obtained a copy of a seven-page, 63-question application (PDF) Obama’s office is sending to all prospective members of the administration. Those seeking cabinet positions and “other high-ranking posts” are all included. There’s plenty of traditional background information requested in the form, but what makes it particularly unique are the Internet-focused items. Some examples:
“Writings: Please list and, if readily available, provide a copy of each book, article, column or publication (including but not limited to any posts or comments on blogs or other websites) you have authorized, individually or with others. Please list all aliases or ‘handles’ you have used to communicate on the Internet.”
Yes, every single blog posting and every single Web comment you’ve ever made. Think you could catalog all that info? And would there be anything — say, an off-the-cuff comment you left on an ex’s profile, or an angry remark you made on a blog — that might make you look less than honorable? We won’t even get into why you used to post under the handle “BigPoppa68.”
“Electronic communications: If you have ever sent an electronic communication, including but not limited to an email, text message or instant message, that could suggest a conflict of interest or be a possible source of embarrassment to you, your family, or the President-Elect if it were made public, please describe.”
This could get messy. In our modern society, is there anyone left who hasn’t sent some sort of e-mail, text, or IM that could be a “possible source of embarrassment”? The ex factor could prove fatal here once again — just think how many not-so-PG texts could still be sitting on your former flame’s phone. Or how about that nice note you sent you to your old boss after your last day on the job?
“Please provide the URL address of any websites that feature you in either a personal or professional capacity (e.g. Facebook, MySpace, etc).”
Wait a minute — so, are drunken party pics considered a problem, or are those okay? This one could get dicey.
“Please provide any other information, including information about other members of your family, that could suggest a conflict of interest or be a possible source of embarrassment to you, your family, or the President-Elect.”
This last request isn’t necessarily tech-related, but it sure could be. Have you considered all the crap your parents/siblings/children have on their social networking profiles? I’d say we all have some family member with something embarrassing online.
If you answered all those items without any red flags, I’m impressed. Now just get through the other 59, and maybe — just maybe — you’ve got a shot.
As for me, I’m in tip-top shape. Well, almost. I just need to go, uh, delete a few things, and I’ll get right back to you.