Blogosphere as Fourth and Fifth Estates

‘Blogosphere’ spurs government oversight

The socially networked Internet means we will see more collaboration like that described in this USA Today article about bloggers and blog readers cooperating to shine light into government’s reflexively dark places. It just makes too much sense. Power to the people!

Posted 9/11/2006 10:47 PM ET
By Richard Wolf, USA TODAY


WASHINGTON — When watchdog groups that monitor federal spending wanted more information on 1,800 “pork barrel” projects buried in a House appropriations bill, they listed them on the Internet and asked readers to dig deeper. Within days, details began pouring in.

The same thing happened when enlisted readers of its website to find out which senator had blocked legislation that would create an online database of federal grants and contracts. One by one, senators were eliminated until Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, and Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., were uncovered.

The two episodes illustrate the latest trend in government oversight: More light is being thrown on Congress, not just by the media and public interest groups, but in the “blogosphere” where Internet users meet.

“It’s probably the biggest expansion of government oversight that we’ll ever have,” says Thomas Schatz of Citizens Against Government Waste, one of the groups pioneering the effort. “It will turn every American into a watchdog.”

2 Responses to Blogosphere as Fourth and Fifth Estates

  1. Dee says:

    Hurrah! This is encouraging.

  2. bc says:

    It is, and I think we’ll see a lot more. It’s a natural evolution of the networked email campaigns like the one that spurred the FCC to crack down on CBS/Viacom for Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” and NBC for Bono’s F-bomb. Did you know of the hundreds of thousands of emails the FCC received, 98% were attributed to one advocacy group and its members, the Parents Family Council or some such?

    So this is a positive step, one that will involve more meaningful democratic participation than simply sending a templated protest email.

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