Twitter To Control Questions At Tomorrow's Presidential Town Hall

ABC News’ Mary Bruce ( @marykbruce) Reports:

At the first presidential Twitter town hall tomorrow, President Obama will field a range of questions that are out of the White House’s hands and under Twitter’s control, the White House said today.

While Obama would like to focus the conversation on jobs and the economy, “ultimately the decision over what questions are asked and… the moderation of the event falls to Twitter,” White House Director of New Media Macon Phillips told reporters on a conference call today. Twitter will choose the questions based on the themes and “hot topics” they see among the submitted questions.

“The scope of the questions and the actual questions that are asked are in the hands of Twitter to decide and we’re looking forward to hearing a wide variety of viewpoints,” Phillips said. “What we’re going to see tomorrow is an event that has a little bit of separation from the White House where we aren’t picking questions for the president to ask but we’re working with other groups who can facilitate a conversation between the president and Americans across the country.”

From the looks of it, the president should brace himself for questions on a wide array of topics. So far thousands of questions have poured into the #AskObama hash tag ranging from unemployment and the deficit, to Afghanistan and Libya, and the legalization of marijuana.

While questions must be asked in the 140 character limit imposed by Twitter, the president will have free range in his answers. Shortened summaries of Obama’s responses will be posted to @townhall.

Twitter co-founder and Executive Chairman Jack Dorsey will read the questions and the president will offer his responses to an audience of 140 in the East Room of the White House, although the majority of the questions will come from Twitter users across the country, not from within the room.

Roughly 30 members of the audience will be Twitter followers from across the nation picked through the White House’s “Tweetup” page. The VIPs will live tweet the event and get a chance to meet with senior policy officials afterwards, according to the White House.

The president’s first Twitter town hall comes as his campaign seeks to engage young voters and recapture their support heading into 2012. The White House, however, insists that Twitter and Facebook users are older than one may think. According to Facebook statistics provided by the administration, nearly 50 percent of the White House’s Facebook fans are over the age of 35 and 62 percent of those who responded to a recent survey of the White House’s Twitter followers were over 35.

Today the White House made clear that social media will be an important part of its communication going forward. “If you’re going to communicate with the broad public it is no longer sufficient to simply do it through traditional mainstream media. You have to go beyond that,” White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer said.

Although @BarackObama has well over 8 million followers, the president himself is new to the social media; he sent his first tweet a little over two weeks ago. Obama isn’t the only one jumping into the Twitterverse. Vice President Joe Biden took the plunge earlier this week.

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