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AskThem.io aiming to bring greater access to politicians


Social media is supposed to be one of those hugely democratizing things that give us access to those in power like never before.  It’s pretty rare for instance to find a politician that isn’t on Twitter these days.  I say they’re on Twitter, but of course few of them actually are, with the majority of accounts being run by their staff.  What’s more, few of them are any more than PR mouthpieces used to broadcast out information rather than listen to the views and concerns of their constituents.

Will AskThem.io be any different?  The site launched this week with the aim of providing a free and open source Q&A platform for public figures.  It’s designed to run a similar way to the White House’s We The People platform, but this time to include every elected official in the US, yes all 142,000 of them.

AskThem.io Director David Moore says, “We’re building a cultural expectation that when large numbers of people ask a question, public figures give a public response.”

The site is part of the Participatory Politics Foundation, which aims to improve involvement in the political process.  In addition to creating AskThem.io, they also created the hugely popular OpenCongress.org, which helps to track the US Congress.

The site aims to make quizzing your local representatives easy and straightforward, outlining a 4 step process for doing so:

  1. Enter their address to see all elected officials near them
  2. Submit your question to the official
  3. Sign up to other questions or petitions you support
  4. Once a threshold has been passed, a question is then automatically forwarded on to the official via email and social media

For the initial launch, just 66 of those 142,000 have agreed to be verified on the site, and therefore respond to questions via the forum.  So there is clearly some way to go to reach critical mass, and that is where the success of the site will rest.  Conditions for use ensure that each official that signs up should respond to at least 2 of the most popular questions from their constituents per month.  Which is great, just so long as officials sign up.

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