22 September 2006

The White House on drugs

YouTube, a San Mateo, California-based startup, has become one of the Internet's hottest properties since two 20-something friends started the company 19 months ago. The free service allows users to share and view videos, most of which are amateurishly produced and include clips of young people singing and dancing -- usually badly.

The White House is distributing government-produced, anti-drug videos on YouTube.

President Bush's top drug-policy adviser, John Walters, said the agency was using emerging technologies to try to reach its audience. "Public institutions must adapt to meet the realities of these promising technologies," he said.

This suggests that the government is analyzing who is watching what on YouTube . Big brother is writing up your demographics.

The government's short public service announcements -- all of which were produced previously for television -- are highly polished. They will compete for viewership against hundreds of existing, drug-related videos that include shaky footage of college-age kids smoking marijuana and girls dancing wildly after purportedly using cocaine. Other YouTube videos describe how to grow marijuana and how to cook with it.

Now you know where to find it folks.

The government linked its videos with the terms "war on drugs," "peer-pressure," "marijuana," "weed," "ONDCP" and "420," so anyone searching for those words on YouTube could find its anti-drug messages.

All the videos were associated with a YouTube account named "ONDCPstaff" and identified as an 18-year-old living in Washington. The figure 420 is a popular reference for marijuana, and officials said the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy was created 18 years ago.

And there are the search terms, how thoughtful of cnn.


Michael Bugeja, who studies how different groups use the Internet, said the White House plan is misdirected because online video services don't afford serious consideration to weighty topics.

"It's the wrong forum and the wrong target," said Bugeja, an author and director of the journalism school at Iowa State University.


Bugeja has missed the point.

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