Obama uses internet to reach out to Americans

March 27th, 2009 - 9:16 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama By Arun Kumar
Washington, March 27 (IANS) In a new take on Franklin Roosevelt’s fireside chats, US President Barack Obama has reached out to online followers in a bid to rally an anxious country in support of his solutions to the economic crisis.

Flanked by a flat-screen TV and backed by a 100-person audience in the White House’s East Room, the president answered text questions and those submitted in video format.

After the call for questions closed at 9:30 a.m., more than 90,000 people had submitted more than 104,000 questions for the president. The questions largely focused on the economy but spread across several categories. Online users ranked the questions more than 3.6 million times, according to WhiteHouse.gov.

Obama answered seven of the most popular online questions. That included a paraphrase of a question asked by several people online: would legalising marijuana help jumpstart the economy?

The president grinned through his answer: “I don’t’ know what this says about the online audience,” he maintained, adding: “The answer is, ‘No,’ I don’t think that is a good strategy to grow our economy.”

Other questions - some of which came from the live audience - focused primarily on health care, job loss, mortgage payments and energy.

The web service was hosted by Google, but the White House said it will protect user information in accordance with its own privacy guidelines.

Questions asked on the site were made public immediately, the White House said. Users could flag questions they deemed inappropriate.

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