US online actors move into post-election mode
AFP - 2 hours 14 minutes ago
WASHINGTON (AFP) - - Barack Obama tapped the power of the Web to win the US presidential election and now that he's heading to the White House powerful online actors are mobilizing to help define his agenda and ensure the public retains a voice.
MySpace and a social advocacy group, Change.org, announced on Monday the launch of "Ideas for Change in America," described as a "groundbreaking citizen-driven effort" to help set the agenda of the next administration.
"In his victory speech, president-elect Obama talked about his commitment to opening up government, and called for citizens to participate in their own democracy again," said Ben Rattray, founder and chief executive of the San Francisco-based Change.org.
"Ideas for Change in America answers that call by empowering Americans to get involved in the process of identifying solutions to the most important problems we face," he said in a statement announcing the initiative.
"What we're trying to do is reach the millions of Americans who've been inspired by this campaign and to give them an outlet," Rattray added in an interview with AFP.
MySpace members, at myspace.com/change.org, and visitors to Change.org, at change.org/ideas, are able to submit and vote on ideas organized by theme into some 30 categories, from animal rights to health care to women's rights.
The ideas will be winnowed down through public voting, first to a Top 100 and eventually to a Top 10 which will be submitted to a representative of the Obama administration on Inauguration Day, January 20.
Each idea will be paired with a nonprofit sponsor, MySpace and Change.org said, which will then "launch a campaign to mobilize the millions of people on both sites to ensure that each top idea gets the full consideration of the Obama administration and the 111th Congress."
The initiative by Change.org and MySpace, which claims 77 million active users, is the most significant online campaign so far by those seeking to influence an Obama White House but not the only one.
Others include whitehouse2.org, where users can suggest priorities for the president's first 100 days in office, BigDialog.org, where they can ask the chief executive a question by video or in writing, and ObamaCTO.org, where users vote on what the technology agenda should be for the White House.
MySpace and Change.org welcomed the website set up by Obama's transition team, Change.gov, as "the first step toward providing the transparency his campaign promised."
But, they added, "it does not enable citizens to publicly express their own ideas for how the Obama administration should advance change or to collaborate in the ways they had become accustomed to during the campaign."
MySpace manager Liba Wenig Rubenstein, who oversaw the social network's relationships with the presidential campaigns, was quick to dismiss any suggestions of friction now that the campaign phase is over.
"Organizations and platforms like ours are trying to figure out how to harness all of that energy and make sure that it doesn't die now that the ostensible goal has been reached," Rubenstein told AFP.
"We see ourselves as working towards the same goals and working with the administration in whatever way they're interested in working," she said.
Rattray said the Obama team had done an "awesome job" and "one thing we're sensitive to is making it seem like they're failing."
But he made it clear that the online forces empowered during the campaign plan to remain engaged -- and not just as cheerleaders on the sidelines.
"What's really important is not to just suggest ideas and allow the Obama campaign then to decide which ones they want and which ones they don't," the Change.org CEO said.
"The most interesting thing is not stopping at the announcement (of the Top 10 ideas). It's actually running -- literally -- a lobbying campaign behind each of these ideas," Rattray said.
"It's mobilizing our resources and those of MySpace and our partners, putting real resources behind translating those ideas into practical policy.
"Even if the Obama administration supports some of these ideas it's not going to be easy for them to get them implemented and so one of the best ways to ensure that is to mobilize millions of people behind them," he said.
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An internet user consulting MySpace pages. MySpace and a social advocacy group, Change.org, announced on Monday the launch of "Ideas for Change in America," described as a "groundbreaking citizen-driven effort" to help set the agenda of the next administration.
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