The White House wants to make it as simple as possible to contact President Barack Obama, and on Wednesday introduced the ability to reach the president the same way millions chat with friends every day.
You can now send a message to the White House through a Messenger chatbot, an automated program that walks you through communicating with the leader of the free world. President Obama reads 10 letters a day from people who send their thoughts through email, fax, or postal services, and Messenger’s new functionality allows yet another way for citizens to connect with him.
To message the president, head over to the White House Facebook Page and hit “Message,” or click on this link. It’s a rather informal experience, and you’re required to give up your name and address to the bot. Also, the bot isn’t very smart and doesn’t know much beyond how to send your message and glean your personal information.
In a post announcing the new service, the White House chief digital officer Jason Goldman said, “It’s about creating opportunities for people to engage with their government in new and accessible ways, using the same technologies we already rely on in our daily lives.”
The tradition of reading letters from the national community is something Obama has carried throughout his presidency since his first week in office, “in order to stay in tune with America’s issues and concerns,” the White House explains. The White House receives tens of thousands of letters each day. Staffers from the Office of Correspondence receive and respond to all the communications, and deliver selected messages to director Mike Kelleher, who reviews and makes the final decision on which ones cross Obama’s desk.
They look for messages that are representative of the mail that’s coming in, current events in the news, as well as correspondence that has a “compelling message.”
Bots are becoming increasingly popular, especially as chat services like Messenger and Skype incorporate them into flagship applications. The White House presidential Messenger bot is the first for any government entity. But, unfortunately, it doesn’t support GIFs.