Failures

by Mike Masnick


Filed Under:
ama, barack obama, planted questions

Companies:
reddit



Reddit Sleuths In Action: Highlight How Obama Answered A 'Planted' Question [Update: Or Not?]

from the but-let's-talk-about-rampart dept

Update: There are some good points raised in the comments, showing that the woman in question has responded to the claims and insist that she wasn't a plant.

We were a bit disappointed in how President Obama handled his recent Reddit AMA, giving mostly canned politician's answers to a community that tends to expect a bit more human emotion. It was no Woody Harrelson debacle, but it did seem like a missed opportunity. And, now, some Redditors are suggesting that parts of it were actually stage. Some internet sleuthing pointed out that among the only 10 questions that Obama chose to answer (out of hundreds that were asked almost immediately) was one from someone who appears to have been planted by the administration. The evidence:
  • Profile created mere hours before minutes after the AMA was announced, and literally six seconds before asking a well written, paragraph long question (approximate typing speed assuming it was typed after creating the account? 1570 wpm)
  • Created a profile 5 minutes 39 seconds after the AMA going live, when servers were having a fit.
  • Asked question explicitly requesting ways to recruit the youth that Obama relied on last election (many of whom are disillusioned with him, for all the reasons she presents herself as being subject to)
  • Is literally only 1 of 10 questions answered.
  • asked by one hmlee who (according to some internet detective work):
    • has only one comment in her history, total
    • Posted a blog entry supporting Obama
    • lists herself as working/having worked as an intern at the Department of Justice

So, is it possible that she heard about it on her own, created an account, and typed up an eloquent question that is a PR man's wet dream all within less than 6 minutes? Yes, it's possible. It's just not particularly likely.

It isn't that surprising that the administration would plant questions, though it is a bit surprising that they thought they'd get away with such a blatantly obvious planting. Why not find a supporter who was an actual Redditor and have them ask the question? Either way, we've pointed out that the key to a good Reddit AMA tends to be showing off your human side. Responding to planted questions with politicians' answers doesn't seem to qualify.

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  1. icon
    Michael Long (profile), 31 Aug 2012 @ 1:22pm

    Here is Lee's full explanation:

    I am not an Obama plant. I have no affiliation with the campaign. I worked for them in 2008, but I haven't done anything for them in 2012 -- mainly because I was busy finishing law school, looking for a job, and studying for the bar exam (priorities, you know). As to the connection to the Department of Justice -- yes, I interned there during law school for six months. My last day of work was in December 2011, so I haven't had any connection to the federal government for quite some time. And the idea that asking a question of Obama (even if some considered it a softball question) would somehow curry favor with the DOJ is... well, ludicrous. Though I wish it were true because I could still use a job.

    And the mystery about the account is relatively simple as well. I've used reddit for years -- though mainly as a lurker. On my own laptop, my reddit account is typically logged in with the information saved in my browser. When the Obama AMA occurred, I wasn't on my own computer. I couldn't get my normal login to work and knew that if I didn't get my question submitted in a hurry it'd get lost in the shuffle. So I just created a new account.

    As to hearing about the AMA in the first place, I got a gchat from a friend about two minutes prior to it starting who told me that it was happening and to keep an eye on reddit's front page for it to post. I guess you could consider the question a little bit of a softball, but that was intentional, in as much as I wanted to get it answered. I knew that the President, being a politician, wouldn't answer an argumentative or controversial question. Similarly, my question was more likely to get answered if it was at least reasonably grammatically correct. So I typed it up in notepad, proofread it once, and submitted it. Pretty simple.

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