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8/18/2009
10:25 AM
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White House Closes 'Disinformation' Tip Box

The controversy over flag@whitehouse.gov began soon after it was launched on August 4.

The White House pulled an e-mail address for flagging "fishy" information about healthcare reform Monday amidst controversy that it would help the White House create a list of political enemies, referring would-be e-mailers to a new Website launched last week.

The newly launched Reality Check site asks the public to tell the White House "what myths we should address next" but cautions citizens not to forward e-mail addresses or personal information on anyone without their approval.

"The Reality Check website exists to inform public debate about health insurance reform -- not stifle it," White House director of new media Macon Phillips said in a blog post Monday. "The White House takes online privacy very seriously. As our published privacy policy makes clear, we will not share personal information submitted through the site with anyone. We also ask that you always refrain from submitting others' information without permission."

Reality Check includes videos featuring White House officials that aim to debunk a number of criticisms of Democratic healthcare reform proposals, as well as frequently asked questions about health insurance reform and links to share content from the site on various social Websites.

The controversy over the other program, flag@whitehouse.gov, began soon after it was launched on August 4, when Phillips touted flag@whitehouse.gov in a blog post as a way for the administration to combat misinformation about healthcare reform plans making their way through Congress.

Immediately, pushback came from the right. "It is inevitable that the names, email addresses, IP addresses, and private speech of U.S. citizens will be reported to the White House," Sen. John Cornyn, R-Tex., wrote in a letter to President Obama the following day. "As Congress debates health care reform and other critical policy matters, citizen engagement must not be chilled by fear of government monitoring the exercise of free speech rights."

Conservative talk show hosts, bloggers, and politicians piled on, saying that the White House was creating an "enemies list," even as the White House press secretary Robert Gibbs denied that the administration was collecting any names or other personal information.


InformationWeek has published an in-depth report on e-health and the federal stimulus package. Download the report here (registration required).

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