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US House Adopts New Third-Party Web Site Rules

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 5 years ago | from the more-information-not-a-bad-thing dept.

Government 49

GovIT Geek writes to tell us that third-party websites will no longer be off limits for members of the US House, provided that they use it for "official purposes" and not personal, commercial, or campaign purposes. "The rules are seen by House Administration Chairman Robert Brady as a compromise between several proposals under consideration in recent months and are closely aligned with those circulated by the Senate Rules Committee last week. [...] 'These new guidelines are a step in the right direction for a Congress that has been behind the technological curve for too long,' Boehner said. 'By encouraging the use of emerging and established new media tools, Congress is sending the message that we want to speak to citizens, and receive feedback, in the most open and accessible manner possible.'"

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49 comments

If they wanted to speak to citizens... (1, Insightful)

Korey Kaczor (1345661) | more than 5 years ago | (#25249733)

.... why did they take away Congressmen's blackberries away from them during the height of the bailout debate? http://blogs.abcnews.com/politicalpunch/2008/09/staffers-for-th.html [abcnews.com]

Re:If they wanted to speak to citizens... (4, Informative)

dreamchaser (49529) | more than 5 years ago | (#25249767)

They took them away from staffers, not Congresscritters. Had you read the link you provided you'd know that. Lots of junior staffers love to leak because it makes them feel important, and Her Majesty Pelosi didn't want any premature details of the negotiations coming out before they had a deal to screw us out of yet more money.

Re:If they wanted to speak to citizens... (1)

Korey Kaczor (1345661) | more than 5 years ago | (#25249807)

Yeah, I reread it after posting, though I thought I heard that congress also had them taken away. I probably misread that, though.

The coffee hasn't kicked in yet. But I'm kicking myself, instead.

Re:If they wanted to speak to citizens... (4, Funny)

ivandavidoff (969036) | more than 5 years ago | (#25249849)

...Her Majesty Pelosi...

Watch what you call her. Under the new rules, she can flame you and link to her post.

Re:If they wanted to speak to citizens... (1)

Duradin (1261418) | more than 5 years ago | (#25249885)

Those staffers probably have a better understanding of the legislation than the congresscritter they support.

Crackberries in the hands of actual congresscritters is like a five year old having it. You get nothing but fantasy and gibberish with the occasional regurgitation of things they heard the grown ups say.

Re:If they wanted to speak to citizens... (2, Insightful)

CorporateSuit (1319461) | more than 5 years ago | (#25249953)

Crackberries in the hands of actual congresscritters is like a five year old having it. You get nothing but fantasy and gibberish with the occasional regurgitation of things they heard the grown ups say.

You mean like when any suit gets ahold of a blackberry?

Re:If they wanted to speak to citizens... (1)

BCW2 (168187) | more than 5 years ago | (#25250015)

Staffers are also cheaper to bribe than the Congresscritters who mostly just do what the staffers tell them. The true talking head. Makes "Thundering Herd of Dumbass" more appropriate than ever.

Re:If they wanted to speak to citizens... (1)

Korey Kaczor (1345661) | more than 5 years ago | (#25249769)

Oops, it says staffers, not Congressmen, but I think members of congress had their blackberries taken away, as well. At least, I remember reading that somewhere.

In other words (4, Insightful)

snspdaarf (1314399) | more than 5 years ago | (#25249753)

The US House would rather relax the rules than spend the money for a server and feed that can take getting blasted by the angry constituents of, what, 437 Congresspersons?

Re:In other words (2, Informative)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 5 years ago | (#25250057)

Altogether now, write your congressperson and ask them how they liked that slashdotting? Don't forget to tell them more is on the way. I look forward to hearing which congressional website is slashdotted today, and why.

I didn't know that they were off-limits (3, Interesting)

ardle (523599) | more than 5 years ago | (#25249757)

Even for personal purposes? What constitutes "personal"?
If someone has, for example, a linkedIn account, do they have to close it if they get elected?

Re:I didn't know that they were off-limits (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25249879)

Even for personal purposes? What constitutes "personal"?

Things that they do for their personal interests.

Now, if they're working on a bill to say, outlaw pornography, or they're about to vote on a bill about pornography and they have to do research, that falls under official business.

Re:I didn't know that they were off-limits (3, Insightful)

EvanED (569694) | more than 5 years ago | (#25250007)

My impression from the (relatively poorly written, especially on this point) article, and the fact that just about everyone has a campaign website, is just that linking from the official site is forboden. For instance, neither Obama [senate.gov] nor McCain [senate.gov]'s site really makes it look like they are running for president. (I know both are Senators, not Representatives, but TFA says the new House rules are modeled off of the Senate ones, so I assume they have similar restrictions.)

Misleading (5, Informative)

Actually, I do RTFA (1058596) | more than 5 years ago | (#25250173)

Even for personal purposes? What constitutes "personal"?

If someone has, for example, a linkedIn account, do they have to close it if they get elected?

No, that's not the point. They cannot do personal things in the guise of their office. For instance, President Bush, as a person, can be racist (an example I believe untrue, but sprang to mind quickly). As President, however, he has to have a non-racist approach to running the executive.

The Rep. can maintained the linked in account, but without the offical presence of his office.

This rule doesn't affect whether Rep. X can put up YouTube videos of "My crazy weekend". He always could. But now he can put up videos saying "The US House of Representatives did X" with him speaking as part of his job.

But he must not use his those official communiques for personal, commerical or campaigning reasons.

Similar to how my work might allow youtube to host our official videos (currently, our site does it), but I still couldn't connect me to my company for political or personal reasons (or other commercial ventures.)

And in one of their conferences... (2, Funny)

VeNoM0619 (1058216) | more than 5 years ago | (#25249763)

And in one of their conferences...

"We decided to not spend this on the budget, because VeNoM0619 says it sounds stupid, and is full of cooties."

As a member of the Green Party, (2, Insightful)

greenguy (162630) | more than 5 years ago | (#25249765)

I couldn't be happier that members of Congress are finally allowed to check third parties out. We have all kinds of fresh ideas they could appropriate.

Re:As a member of the Green Party, (0, Offtopic)

megamerican (1073936) | more than 5 years ago | (#25249989)

I couldn't be happier that members of Congress are finally allowed to check third parties out. We have all kinds of fresh ideas they could appropriate.

I know one Congressman [campaignforliberty.com] who does

REALLY! (4, Funny)

arizwebfoot (1228544) | more than 5 years ago | (#25249781)

Congress is sending the message that we want to speak to citizens, and receive feedback, in the most open and accessible manner possible.

I think I just ruined another keyboard spitting out my coffee when I read that!

--
Oh well, Bad Karma and all . . .

Seems unconstitutional (1)

Kohath (38547) | more than 5 years ago | (#25249837)

It would seem that any form of communications used by House members on any subject would be Constitutionally protected by Amendment 1. These rule changes seem odd in that context.

Re:Seems unconstitutional (2, Informative)

Obfuscant (592200) | more than 5 years ago | (#25250193)

...any form of communications used by House members on any subject would be Constitutionally protected by Amendment 1.

Oh for the days before McCain/Feingold.

Do you wonder why so many politicians appear in ads saying "I approved this message"? They are legally required to do that. The 1st amendment protects freedom of speech. Requiring someone to say something is as abridging of freedom as preventing them.

Do you know that there are prohibitions on political speech (ads) within a certain number of days before an election?

Do you know that you cannot give more than a certain amount to a candidate every year? Money is a form of speech, isn't it? You can't use that money to buy airtime for him, either, which is a more direct representation of money being speech.

Read the Wikipedia entry on campaign finance reform for a good summary. In short, politicians get limited in what they can do to try to avoid the appearance of impropriety. Doesn't work, but they try.

Re:Seems unconstitutional (1)

Jaysyn (203771) | more than 5 years ago | (#25250713)

Money is a form of currency, but nice try. Maybe you could barter for airtime instead.

Re:Seems unconstitutional (1)

AndersOSU (873247) | more than 5 years ago | (#25250785)

Money is not a form of speech any more than a car is. Money is a possession not an action.

Donations to candidates are limited because people seeking to serve the public trust shouldn't be unduly influenced by one person with deep pockets.

If you want to say something say it. Form a PAC, spend as much money as you like. There are some restrictions, e.g. you can't coordinate with a campaign, but I think you'll find PACs have remarkable leeway, (see swiftboat veterans for truth and moveon.) I'm pretty sure the restrictions surrounding issue ads before an election have been struck down.

Re:Seems unconstitutional (1)

Kohath (38547) | more than 5 years ago | (#25251233)

You can't restrict the money used to pay for speech without restricting that speech as a consequence.

So money might not be speech, but it must have the same protections for the speech protections to actually, you know, protect speech.

Saying the money isn't protected is like saying air is not protected. "We're not silencing the speakers, we're just cutting off their air so they can't breathe to make sounds. They can still move their lips. Free speech is protected."

Re:Seems unconstitutional (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | more than 5 years ago | (#25251361)

As has been pointed out, money is necessary to pay for effective speech, so limiting money in essence limits the effectiveness of speech, which is an infringement.

A flag is a possession, not an action, but wearing a flag on one's lapel is a form of speech.

Donations to candidates are limited because people seeking to serve the public trust shouldn't be unduly influenced by one person with deep pockets.

Money is a possession. It is not speech. Someone giving me money hasn't "speeched" to me, then. I can easily accept money (into a common campaign fund) that does not influence me.

Further, it is insulting for you to think that my vote can be bought. YOUR ethical system may allow you to wave which ever way the wind blows, but mine does not. I will vote the way I think best without regard to who donated money to a campaign. (The point of that statement is that by assuming that every politician is corrupt you will always wind up with a system where politicians are corrupt. Why shouldn't they be? They are expected to be that way.)

Donations to campaign funds could be trivially sanitized from influence by allowing them to be any amount if anonymous. If I don't know who gave me money, I can't predict how he wants me to vote, can I? If the donor tells me he donated, then it's no longer anonymous and is subject to limits. If you think I'm going to break those limits, then why do you think I'd not simply violate the existing limits too? Of what good are limits you know I'm going to break?

Re:Seems unconstitutional (3, Insightful)

amRadioHed (463061) | more than 5 years ago | (#25250973)

Money is a form of speech, isn't it?

No. No it isn't.

Re:Seems unconstitutional (1)

stephanruby (542433) | more than 5 years ago | (#25254867)

Money is a form of speech, isn't it?

No. Money controls media. Media makes us *think* money is speech. Ergo, money is a form of thought-control, not speech.

The thing is, the government has already granted limited monopolies over our air waves. So it effectively took what was ours, and nobodies, consolidated, centralized it, made it scarce, and sold it back to only a limited few -- in exchange for money. This is the real reason people think money is free speech. It's because it was sold for money. If the American government had sold our speech to only people with green eyes, or to people with a particular military rank, or to people from a particular political party, you can be sure that many people would be associating free speech with green eyes, with that particular military rank, or people from that particular political party.

It becomes a self-reinforcing system to make free speech scarce, and then to keep on calling it "free speech" anyway over those same air waves. After all, who are people going to believe? Me, or what's shown repeatedly on TV, or what's shown repeatedly on your friends/classmates/teachers/parents TVs?

Re:Seems unconstitutional (1)

Kohath (38547) | more than 5 years ago | (#25251153)

McCain Feingold is clearly unconstitutional too. The SCOTUS got it wrong.

Re:Seems unconstitutional (3, Informative)

pavon (30274) | more than 5 years ago | (#25250285)

I haven't been able to find a copy of the actual rules, just a bunch of blogger rhetoric, but from what I understand this is more about the boundary between tax-payer funded media and privately funded media.

The senate and house both have official websites with pages that each of the congresscritters can use for official business. Naturally, we don't want them using taxpayer money on their campaign since it gives an advantage to the incumbents, so campaigning is forbidden on this website. The argument was about whether linking to content from personal or campaigning sites from their official site should be allowed.

There was also some concern about embedding third party content (like youtube videos) and whether it caused any technical/political/security concerns. The initial reaction was to ban embedding of third-party content (mostly because it because it wasn't understood). They are now lifting that ban with the clarification that anything on the official site must be official business even if it is hosted elsewhere.

AFAIK they never prohibited congresscritters from having their own sites, or using any third-party sites - they just had to be separate from the official site, and not funded with tax money.

Confused (1)

[cx] (181186) | more than 5 years ago | (#25249875)

They say they can use it for official purposes but not "campaign purposes." Anyone want to elaborate on how a campaign is not an official purpose?

Re:Confused (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25249931)

Anyone want to elaborate on how a campaign is not an official purpose?

Their job is to be a Congressman, not to promote themselves for personal gain.

Re:Confused (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25250261)

How could you be confused?

A campaign is unrelated to the job that one who wins an election is responsible for doing in their official capacity.

They should never, ever be related.

You mean like they listen now? (1)

mpapet (761907) | more than 5 years ago | (#25249895)

I am still bitter as hell about how both my Senators and Representative voted for the %@$#! Bailout.

It didn't stop them from voting against the desires of their constituents. According to the email one of them sent out as a reply to my comments, most of her constituents were against the Financial Patriot Act and yet she still voted for it.

"speak to citizens and receive feedback" Lies.

Re:You mean like they listen now? (1)

megamerican (1073936) | more than 5 years ago | (#25250111)

I am still bitter as hell about how both my Senators and Representative voted for the %@$#! Bailout.

It didn't stop them from voting against the desires of their constituents. According to the email one of them sent out as a reply to my comments, most of her constituents were against the Financial Patriot Act and yet she still voted for it.

"speak to citizens and receive feedback" Lies.

Many congressman are simply cowards. They were also lied to as this congressman [youtube.com] points out. Many other congressman are simply sellouts. They know who butters their bread. Many congressman get most of their money from financial institutions who will be the only beneficiaries of this bill. Just checkout opensecrets.org

Hopefully... (2, Interesting)

TheSpoom (715771) | more than 5 years ago | (#25249903)

This could lead to us being able to get YouTube videos from Barack Obama if he's elected (adding to the 1400+ he and his campaign already have [youtube.com]). Of course, John McCain just posts his campaign ads [youtube.com]...

Or maybe thinking open, ongoing communication from representatives is too idealistic.

(Yes, I realize this applies to the House and not the Executive branch.)

Re:Hopefully... (2, Insightful)

Obfuscant (592200) | more than 5 years ago | (#25251733)

Or maybe thinking open, ongoing communication from representatives is too idealistic.

Maybe thinking that a YouTube video is open, ongoing communication is too idealistic.

Franking regulations (2, Interesting)

AnotherScratchMonkey (592037) | more than 5 years ago | (#25250013)

From the article:

House Speaker Pelosi lauded the panel's effort to "modernize the antiquated franking regulations to address the realities of communications in the Internet age."

Congressmen like to use government funds to push their next campaigns, and the campaigns of allies. Franking regulation is needed to stop such abuses.

mod 3own (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25250119)

the p8oblems for membership. The hard drive to surveys show that has brought upon failure, its corpse expulsion of IPF contaminated while

LDS Church local unit website precedent (2, Interesting)

Pervaricator General (1364535) | more than 5 years ago | (#25251039)

Back in the Wild Wild West of Web 1.0, the LDS Church (Mormon church) had a hodgepodge of 3rd party sites built by savvy members who were given that responsibility, and it acted purely as a supplement to the newsletter handed out on Sunday.

As more people got used to looking at a site than getting the newsletter, they had a problem with not every unit having a page, multiple pages and out of date pages for a unit, blatant image copyright violation, links to copyright violations that were in direct violation of the precedent they set: linking to copyright violations is a violation of the copyright itself, etc (sorry for the laundry list).

To combat this, they built a template that would provide the protection from copyright violation for the main organization, while allowing even unskilled church members to make a site. It was hosted on the church's servers, and was extended as needs presented themselves.

I would think a simple solution such as this would be a way to simplify the interaction between congressmen and their constituents (analagous to the franking regulations above: standard set of contents, scheduling etc to foster transparency). It might also force them to consider open source and maybe provide enough bandwidth to avoid getting slashdotted over every outrageous bill they tried to pass: "I'm sorry, but I just don't get that much criticism. I get a flood of comments and then nothing for about an hour, then a flood, then nothing."

Bad news for open government (3, Interesting)

Fooby (10436) | more than 5 years ago | (#25251059)

Allowing representatives to use third-party services for official purposes, rather than government-run official IT infrastructure, enables them to hide their operations in plain sight. This is much like gov.palin@hotmail.com and Bush using RNC services while in office.

With these new rules in place, official goverment records that should be open to scrutiny will be spread across thousands of privately-controlled servers. Oversight will be impossible.

NIB! (2, Insightful)

Itninja (937614) | more than 5 years ago | (#25251863)

I can see ways around this. Say you are a senator a want to sell an old typerwriter on Ebay...that's offical business I suppose.

Item Specifics
Material : Experience Type: Democrat
Manufacturer : America Reproduction: Only in a good way
Great vintage President Deluxe Vote Obama typewriter. The keys are in great shape but WE NEED CHANGE, needs ink cartridge,......

you get the idea....

Guest (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25255565)

Super portal: http://allangarsk.ru/ best portal!

Logical move.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25255637)

to tell us that third-party websites will no longer be off limits for members of the US House

... because after this bailout debacle, there may be more third party members of congress after the next election.

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