By Garance Franke-Ruta
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
After complaints from Republicans, the White House has shut down a two-week-old e-mail tip line where people could report "disinformation about
health insurance reform."
"An ironic development is that the launch of an online program meant to provide facts about health insurance reform has itself become the target of
fear-mongering and online rumors that are the tactics of choice for the defenders of the status quo," the White House's new media director, Macon
Phillips, wrote in announcing the change.
"The White House takes online privacy very seriously," he added.
The e-mail tip line, firstname.lastname@example.org, was launched Aug. 4 as part of the White House's Health Insurance Reform Reality Check, a rapid-response
effort reminiscent of the war room that the Obama campaign launched last summer to fight online rumors about Obama's patriotism and religion.
But the new effort quickly sparked concern among Republicans about the government's collecting information on private citizens' political speech.
"I am not aware of any precedent for a president asking American citizens to report their fellow citizens to the White House for pure political
speech that is deemed 'fishy' or otherwise inimical to the White House's political interests," Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) wrote in an Aug. 5
letter to the White House that called for an end to the program.
"By requesting that citizens send 'fishy' emails to the White House, it is inevitable that the names, email addresses, IP addresses, and private
speech of U.S. citizens will be reported to the White House. You should not be surprised that these actions taken by your White House staff raise the
specter of a data collection program," wrote Cornyn, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
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