House May Create Link to YouTube

Posted April 9, 2008 at 6:50pm

Web-savvy Members may eventually be able to post videos to a YouTube page of their own — one that is scrubbed clean of outside advertisements and political leanings.

Some members of the franking commission are hoping that such a controlled Web site would stop widespread violations of outdated House Internet rules. Right now, many Members’ official Web sites violate House rules by including links to videos on an advertisement-laden YouTube Web page.

The commission met earlier this week to hash out the options. So far, discussion has focused on two ideas: either create a specific House “channel” on YouTube or change current Internet rules to allow Members to more freely store content on outside Web sites.

It appears that the YouTube option will happen first. The commission has asked the House Administration Committee to develop a policy that allows Members to post videos on an outside Web site that “meets requirements which ensure the integrity of the House,” according to an e-mail from commission Chairman Mike Capuano’s (D-Mass.) spokeswoman, Alison Mills.

“It’s a good first step,” said Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who is a member of the commission. McCarthy first brought the issue to the commission a year ago, after revamping his Web site and realizing he couldn’t post YouTube videos.

Still, McCarthy said he hopes the commission eventually finds a longer-lasting solution. With new technology and new Web sites popping up every day, the commission should recommend rules that would allow Members to keep up with their constituents, he said.

He used YouTube as an example: Created three years ago, only now are Members close to being allowed to use it.

However, it’s not certain when it will all become official. The House Administration Committee expects to address the issue at its next business meeting, said committee spokesman Kyle Anderson. But no date has yet been set.

YouTube already has expressed interest in developing a House-specific Web page, McCarthy said. However, other interested companies would be able to apply for approval as well.

In the meantime, some offices have found ways to avoid breaking House rules. Rep. Robert Wexler’s (D-Fla.) Web site features a custom video player, said spokeswoman Ashley Mushnick.

YouTube is certainly easier to use, she said, because it’s quick and doesn’t require much Web expertise. But she added that “this seems to be the solution” until the House adopts rules for handling YouTube.

Many feel that an update of the rules is long overdue.

As currently written, the rules don’t allow links to outside sites without an approved exit message. That message tells visitors that they are leaving the house.gov domain.

But with an embedded YouTube video, one click plays the clip and two clicks immediately opens up the YouTube page. Furthermore, the YouTube logo is constantly in the corner of the video. All of this is in violation of rules meant to prohibit endorsements.

But constituents now expect Members to have multimedia Web sites, some staffers say, and those Members who do break the rules and post outside video links have not been reprimanded.

Indeed, Anderson said that most Members who violate the rules aren’t even aware they are doing so.

But while it’s uncertain when there will be a resolution to the YouTube issue, the franking commission did make more solid recommendations Tuesday.

One was that Members be allowed to include links that would allow their constituents to view the updated content of the Members’ Web pages on their personal Google, Yahoo or other accounts.

And on Wednesday, Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.), a member of the commission, sent out a “Dear Colleague” letter informing Members that they soon will be able to reuse approved tele-town hall scripts, radio ads and phone scripts.

The current practice requires offices to gain the commission’s approval every time, even if the script is identical to one that was previously approved.