A quick follow-up: When Ellen Miller posted to further promote Sunlight Foundation’s Let Our Congress Tweet” petition, she made this statement:

Under the current system, members of Congress are forced to break rules to use new technologies and services to do what their constituents ask of them: connect, listen and be held accountable. So, that YouTube video you saw on a lawmaker’s Web site? Illegal! […]

She also linked to the “Unsolicited Mass Communications Restrictions” section of the House Administration Committee’s Member Handbook, presumably indicating that this was the section that supported her statement.

I read the section (and the bulk of the rest of the handbook for good measure. So I asked for clarification in the comments of her post. What I got was a response from John Wonderlich, who authored the original post, saying in essence that the rules are unclear and they’re seeking clarity. Much softer stance, it seems, than the original hard line that our Representatives were being forced to break the law.

I tried to respond, but it seems the blog isn’t accepting further comments from me. Here’s the comment that wasn’t:

Fair enough. I share your interest in transparency. Having spent the time to read these rules, I also heartily endorse any efforts to update and clarify them.

That said, I take issue with the sensationalist nature of the copy on http://letourcongresstweet.org/ as well as the assertion that it’s outright illegal rather than unclear. Furthering your cause by scaring people with incomplete information and vague possibilities demeans your mission. The means count as much as the end.

I’d also assert that transparency is more about being able to reach in for information than those inside being able to push information out. A commenter at MetaFilter summarizes it well (http://www.metafilter.com/73194/Let-Our-Congress-Tweet#2178791):

“How is Yet Another One Way Communication Medium “sunlight”? Sunlight is when I can see what they are doing, even when they don’t want me to. It’s not a press release.”

Good luck.

Disappointing that they had to resort to unclarity to fix the clarity thing.

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14 July 2008