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Uncle Sam Wants YOU to Help Track Social Media in Government

If you’re a social media-savvy citizen, Uncle Sam wants you to help populate a brand new timeline of the most important moments in government social media use.

Earlier today, David McClure, the associate administrator of the General Services Administration’s Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies, introduced a government social media timeline in a blog post on the new citizen engagement platform, Citizen.apps.gov and called on the American people to send “the important U.S. government milestones you know about by emailing them to us at [email protected].”

Here’s what the timeline looks like so far:

U.S. Government use of Social Media on Dipity.

If you follow the rapid acceleration in the use of social media by government, you know that the movement to use social media, data, blogs, wikis and online video to make government work better is broadly called “Gov 2.0.” Think of it like Web 2.0 for government. There are unquestionably risks and rewards for the use of Web 2.0 technologies by government. The Obama administration, however, has been willing to try to use the Internet in new ways.

For example, did you tweet a question to President Obama in his recent MTV town hall? Did you see the @FCC live tweet the blacked-out Giants-Phillies baseball game yesterday? Did you follow tweets from the Mars Rover or follow @NASA astronauts as they orbit the Earth?

In his post McClure wrote that:

Gov 2.0 is like any social network- it’s always changing, can be both difficult and rewarding, and occasionally get pretty hairy. And like Facebook, Gov 2.0 is only as valuable as the time you – and your community – put into it. It’s been a rapidly accelerating ride – as more and more interest comes from the White House, and, more importantly, the American public to increase the reach and effectiveness of engaging and communicating with government.

McClure cited milestones like the first government YouTube channel, the redesign of WhiteHouse.gov with open-source software and the use of Twitter by the State and Defense Departments after the Haiti earthquake. Now, the federal government is looking to the American people – yes, you – to contribute more milestones to the timeline via [email protected]. Add a date, provide any sourcing information and keep eye on the evolution of this government social media timeline.

UPDATE: An alert reader in Washington pointed out that Uncle Sam’s timeline probably won’t end up including any official recognition of government surveillance of social media use in all contexts. For instance, thanks to the EFF’s FOIA requests, we know that DHS monitored social media during Obama’s inauguration. While it certainly makes sense for @FEMA or the @LAFD or the @Boston_Police to be monitoring social media channels during crises, government agencies haven’t always been completely forthcoming about what they’re monitoring, how they’re doing it or why. That’s why ECPA reform and digital due process matter.

Given national security concerns, protecting some sources and methods shouldn’t surprise anyone. If we take it as a given that government will be using social media during crises, elections or for greater transparency, however, it’s important that everyone involved know who’s really listening.

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