updated 06:46 pm EDT, Wed August 29, 2012
President's IAMA logs 12,058 comments
In a first for an American President -- and perhaps any President in the world -- Barack Obama hosted an IAMA ("I am a...") discussion on social news site Reddit. The President took questions on the site over the course of about half an hour starting this afternoon at 4:30 pm EST. News spread quickly of Obama's appearance on the site, and the resulting traffic caused the page hosting the discussion to be unavailable multiple times over the course of the IAMA.
Over the course of the discussion, Reddit users peppered the President with questions ranging from Internet legislation to his favorite basketball player (Michael Jordan) to tax and finance policy to the likelihood of the United States transitioning to the metric system. Mr. Obama responded to questions receiving the most votes: reiterating his administration's support for research to further manned space flight, putting forth tax plan, and giving details on his life outside of his duties as President, among other things.
Asked what the recipe for the White House's beer was, Obama responded, "It will be out soon! I can tell from first hand experience, it is tasty."
By all appearances, the discussion remained largely civil throughout. Negative or troublesome comments were either voted down by other Reddit users or avoided by the President and his team. Reddit user s0crates82 did manage to catch Obama in a minor slip, correcting his grammar on one response.
At the end of the forum, Obama thanked the Reddit community and acknowledged the site as an example of the power of the Internet in generating "the sorts of conversations that strengthen our democracy over the long run." The President signed off referencing a popular meme from the site. "By the way," he wrote, "if you want to know what I think about the whole reddit experience -- NOT BAD!"
The Reddit appearance marks the latest in a series of social media outreach efforts on the part of the Obama campaign, which relied heavily on the Internet and social media as a campaign tool in the 2008 election and is doing so again this year. The administration has previously gone to Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, and other outlets in order to interact with supporters and push initiatives.
The appearance did not go unnoticed by political activists. Shortly after the President signed off, Demand Progress -- a civil liberties activist group claiming one million members -- released a statement regarding Obama's statements in support of Internet freedom: "We're thrilled that the President is paying attention to our efforts: These lofty goals are admirable, and we absolutely share them. But it's critical that the Dems make sure that the platform language -- and their actions in office -- live up to this rhetoric."