Yesterday, Barack Obama's transition team launched "Open For Questions," a Digg-style section of its site that allows citizens to ask questions that are then moved up or down the page based on the votes of others.
4657251The site, designed to bring citizens' most pressing concerns to the forefront, is already generating some controversy, however. As Ben Smith reports, "Obama's supporters appear to be using -- and abusing -- a tool allowing them to 'flag' questions as 'inappropriate' to remove all questions mentioning Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich from the main pages of Obama's website."
And the questioners have noticed. One asks, "Will you explain the true connection to all your corrupt buddies? A picture is worth a thousand words." The questioner then links to a picture of Obama and Blagojevich. He then writes: "If this is not adoring enough of you then I guess it must be flagged."
Despite the fact that many of the other Blagojevich-related questions are more polite, they have also been relegated to the site's equivalent of purgatory. As Smith notes, this question was removed from the main page "because people believe it is inappropriate," according to text beneath it: "Given the current corruption charges involving Blagojevich, will 'serious' campaign finance reform that takes money completely out of politics through publicly funded elections be a priority in the first term?"
At the moment, the top question on the site is "What will you do to establish transparency and safeguards against waste with the rest of the Wall Street bailout money?" Other questions on the first page involve stem cell research and how Obama will address the "gravest crimes" of the Bush administration.
Most of the questions are not softballs, to be sure, though it remains unclear just how and when they will be answered. But it's striking that questions about the dominant news story of the week – one in which Obama's Senate seat plays a starring role – have been effectively buried.