White House Press Secretary suggests tweets will be archived

After asking questions about terrorism, nuclear energy and the Recovery Act, the press switched gears and asked about the Press Secretary's use of Twitter. Almost overnight he has attracted almost 26,000 followers.
Written by Doug Hanchard, Contributor

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was under siege with respects to his announcement that he's now on Twitter - and tweeting away. After asking questions about Terrorism, Nuclear Energy, Recovery Act, the press switched gears and asked about the Secretary's use of Twitter. Almost overnight, he has attracted almost 26,000 followers.  Reporters jumped on him, unleashing a number of questions including the question: Do tweets that he receives from followers become a part of the Presidential Records Act? He believes they do. "We're simply following the law". Like everyone else, Gibbs is adapting to the 140 character limit and so far - hasn't experienced a challenge keeping within that limit. The press had fun poking Gibb's on his use of Twitter and zinged a few serious questions about his use (as White House Press Secretary) and Mr. Gibbs seemed to enjoy this particular exchange of questioning as press secretary;

Q    Robert, I have a highly technical question about the new rough draft of history.  But if your Tweets are part of the White House records, are the sites that you are receiving or following, is that going to be part of the record, as well?  In other words, does that constitute as receiving a message?

MR. GIBBS:  Meaning what?  You know, it took me a year or so to get on this, so I may not be the guy that -

Q    Will the sites you're following be part of the record?

MR. GIBBS:  I believe they are.  I believe they are.

Q    Or people you follow.  So if you're following Jake or you're following Mark, all of Jake's Tweets?

MR. GIBBS:  I don't know if every site that I visit on the Internet is documented for the presidential records.

Q    -- you're receiving a Tweet as technically a message?

MR. GIBBS:  Well, I can check with the lawyers --

Q    What about your followers?  (Laughter.)

Q    Both of them?  (Laughter.)

MR. GIBBS:  Yes, I was going to say.  (Laughter.)

Q    -- incredible number of followers.

MR. GIBBS:  Hold on one second.  Michael, how many followers are -- how many do you have currently on the -- (laughter.)  Yes, I don't want to compare --

Q    -- just Tweeting.  You're up to 21,000 --

Q    Do your followers become part of the federal record?

MR. GIBBS:  I will ask the lawyers.  (Laughter.)  I don't know --

Q    That's a good rumor to start.  (Laughter.)

MR. GIBBS:  No, but I think that's understandably -- but understand this.  If you send -- Wendell, if you send me an e-mail, right, if you send me an e-mail --

Q    I do.  You never respond.  (Laughter.)

MR. GIBBS:  Well, and obviously I get to the important ones -- (laughter) -- but know this, that in  --

Q    I would never give you something --

MR. GIBBS:  -- in eight years I'm sure the archivist will be entertained by yours.  (Laughter.)  No, but this is a serious question.  I think it's important to understand that, again, if you e-mail -- Congress long ago passed a law that interactions with -- on e-mail have to be archived.  They're not released for some period of time --

Q    And my question was a refinement of that, because it's a different thing to e-mail you than it is to follow you on Twitter.

MR. GIBBS:  Well, except, again, one of the reasons that you can't just log onto that computer and get onto a site like that is because interactions with us are governed by -- we follow the law.  It's governed by the Presidential Records Act.

Now, I want to say that should not scare anybody from -- and judging from some of the criticisms that I've read, it has not -- (laughter) -- and those aren't your e-mails, Wendell, those are  -- (laughter) -- those are others.

Video of the press briefing: Feb: 16, 2010 - approximately half way through at the 30:00 minute mark, the briefing questions about Twitter with Mr. Gibbs begins.

I wonder whether Jack Dorsey is surprised at how Twitter's use in politics has exploded. I suspect the answer is no.

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