U.S. Congressmen John Culberson (R-TX) has gotten a bit of online fame lately for sending real-time updates to constituents and Internet geeks via services like Twitter and Qik, sometimes straight from the House floor.  Culberson has gotten attention for his efforts from tech blogger Robert Scoble, TechPresident and many others.  I follow Congressmen Culberson on Twitter and have been watching his experiment with these services with interest.

Today his Twitter account included messages about what Culberson says are efforts by Democrats to censor the content he sends out from the Floor.

Here is his first tweet on the topic:

I just learned the Dems are trying to censor Congressmen’s ability to use Twitter Qik YouTube Utterz etc – outrageous and I will fight them <link>

This was followed a short while later with this clarification:

They want to require prior approval of all posts to any public social media/internet/www site by any member of Congress!!! <link>

This afternoon, Culberson’s staff put out a statement on their website protesting the proposed action. Culberson’s release provides the following explanation:

Millions of Americans today utilize free, unregulated and uncensored websites like YouTube on a daily basis to not only obtain information from their elected leaders about what’s going on in their government, but to also give feedback and easily share that information with others. The advent of new media technology has empowered American citizens with real-time information about the policy debates and actions being undertaken by Congress. This has increasingly forced Congress to become more transparent and made it easier for American citizens to hold their elected leaders accountable.

The Committee on House Administration is considering a new rule that could bring this trend to a screeching halt. The Committee is considering the adoption of new rules that would require outside websites such as YouTube to comply with House regulations before Members of Congress could post videos on them. Under the proposal, the House Administration Committee would develop a list of “approved” websites, and Members of Congress could post content only such websites.

If the proposed rule is adopted, the free flow of information over the Internet between Americans and their representatives will be significantly curtailed. Americans who currently use free websites like YouTube to obtain uncensored daily information about congressional policy debates will instead be forced to go to websites “approved” by the House Administration Committee in order to continue getting such information. This would amount to new government censorship of the Internet, by a panel of federal officials that is neither neutral nor independent.

I did a few searches trying to find more information on what is happening exactly, but so far the only info I’ve found is from Culberson himself.  This story will be interesting to follow.  If you find more information please post it in the comments and I’ll update the story.

Update: Here is a link to the proposal Culberson says will cause him to have his tweets reviewed prior to being posted.  The proposal sounds fairly innocuous to me, but I don’t have a deep enough understanding of the law to know the true ramifications of what is being proposed.

Update 2: Techdirt has a post up that claims Culberson is misrepresenting what the proposal will actually do in an effort to score some partisan points against the Democrats.  Earlier in the day before Culberson’s Twitter mobilization efforts, David All weighed in against the proposal on TechRepublican while Soren Dayton wrote a post critical of the proposal on The Next Right.

Update 3: Mashable has a post up on the topic as well.

About the Author
Todd Zeigler
Todd Zeigler serves as the Brick Factory’s chief strategist and oversees the operations of the firm. In his sixteen year career in digital, he has planned and implemented campaigns for clients including the Pickens Plan, International Youth Foundation, Panthera, Edison Electric Institute, and the American Chemistry Council. Todd develops ambitious online advocacy programs, manages crises, implements online marketing strategies, and develops custom applications and software. He is bad at golf though.