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How Congress Is Kept Offline

Politicians have fallen in love with the Web. Political candidates use blogs, videos and social-networking tools to win votes and fill coffers. But for candidates elected to Congress, their victory means they must curtail their use of cutting-edge technologies.

In an op-ed yesterday in The Hill, "Modern World, Ancient Websites," David All and Paul Blumenthal discuss how congressional franking rules restrict members of Congress in their official Web sites.

"Due to such restrictions, most member websites function as little more than online brochures, when they could better serve as a place to share information about the member’s activities in Congress, or even as a vital community center. Under these rules, members cannot use Google maps to provide visuals for district information important to constituents. Neither can members use non-congressionally provided blogging tools, nor link to other blogs that may be deemed to be of a political nature."

The authors, both bloggers, note that the franking rules were created decades ago to restrict the use of snail mail at taxpayer expense. Last updated in 1996, the rules prohibit use of outside Web services and ban links to personal or political Web sites.

The harm in this is to the public, the authors say, blocking the free flow of information to constituents and others. They call on Congress to convene a bipartisan task force to review this situation. "The time has come," they write, "to re-imagine the world of the wired elected official."

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on June 20, 2007 at 06:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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