Obama and Google Ignore Top Voted Question at Online Forum
President Obama held an online forum last night organized by You Tube and Google+. Readers submitted questions via You Tube and text. They also voted on the questions submitted by others. Obama took questions from five people via You Tube.
Those were five lucky people: According to the White House' YouTube channel, almost 230,000 people submitted 133,183 questions, and 1.6 million people gave those questions an up or down vote.
Here's how it worked: [More...}
Last week, the White House launched the next in its long line of social media engagement initiatives, this one entitled “Your Interview With the President.” The concept was simple, anyone could upload their question to the President on YouTube, others would vote on them, and the highest rated ones would be posed to the Commander in Chief in a Google+ Hangout on January 30th.
NORML posed the question:
With over 850,000 Americans arrested in 2010, on marijuana charges alone, and tens of billions of tax dollars being spent locking up marijuana users, isn’t it time to regulate and tax marijuana?”
Even though the question got 4,000 votes within hours, it was removed as "inappropriate." NORML then encouraged people to submit their own questions about marijuana. And they did, in huge numbers. At first these questions were also flagged as "inappropriate" but then either Google or the White House, whoever was doing the flagging, gave up on the censorship attempt. When the submissions closed on Saturday:
Of the top 160 questions asked, marijuana reform questions accounted for 105 of them. Reposts of our question brought in an estimated 17,524 up-votes in addition to the 4,028 the original received before being removed. Combined, that is over 21,000 votes for one question, which is 5 times as many votes as any other question on the page. The 105 marijuana reform questions in the top 160 brought in over 74,000 votes, dwarfing any other topic. (my emphasis.)
So what happened during the forum? Obama didn't come near the subject. Afterwards, the White House said Google didn't submit the questions to him. Lame. Like no staffers checked the site? Like they didn't collaborate beforehand?
The Number One voted video question (which ranked second among all questions submitted) was from a former Los Angeles police officer. You can view it here. Or read it below:
"Mr. President, my name is Stephen Downing, and I'm a retired deputy chief of police from the Los Angeles Police Department. From my 20 years of experience I have come to see our country’s drug policies as a failure and a complete waste of criminal justice resources. According to the Gallup Poll, the number of Americans who support legalizing and regulating marijuana now outnumbers those who support continuing prohibition. What do you say to this growing voter constituency that wants more changes to drug policy than you have delivered in your first term?"
Downing is a board member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. LEAP has issued a press release, that states in part:
Today YouTube ignored a question advocating marijuana legalization from a retired LAPD deputy chief of police that won twice as many votes as any other video question in the White House's "Your Interview with the President" competition on the Google-owned site. They did, however, find the time to get the president on record about late night snacking, singing and dancing, celebrating wedding anniversaries and playing tennis.
Downing's response to Google and the White House ignoring his question:
A majority of Americans now support legalizing marijuana to de-fund cartels and gangs, lower incarceration and arrest rates and save scarce public resources, all while generating new much-needed tax revenue. The time to discuss this issue is now. We're tired of this serious public policy crisis being pushed aside or laughed off."
In case you're wondering, the overall number one vote-getting question (counting video and text submissions) was submitted by text and pertained to the extradition of British student Richard O'Dwyer to the U.S. to face charges of copyright infringement. (His conduct was not illegal in the UK.) Google did submit that to the President:
That question asked Obama why he is "personally supporting" the extradition of a British citizen in Sheffield named Richard O'Dwyer. The U.S. Justice Department has identified O'Dwyer as someone running the TVShack.net, which was streaming free television online. Justice seized the domain in the summer of 2010 and wants O'Dwyer to to extradited to the United States to face the charges in U.S. court.
Obama responded that he wasn't "personally supporting" anything, but that intellectual property has to be respected.
The White House billed the forum as:
You asked the questions, and President Obama answered in the first-ever completely virtual interview from the White House, presented by YouTube and Google+.
The event was moderated by Steve Grove, YouTube's head of community partnerships, from Mountain View, What's his excuse for not submitting the top voted video question and #2 top question overall to Obama? How can Google+ expect viewer and reader participation when it ignores them?
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