White House E-mail System Slows to Crawl

An article detailing a byzantine new system for e-mailing President Bush,
established by the White House, seems to have slowed the new Web contact
form to a crawl, as users apparently flock to the site to see if the new
system is as bad as described.

Until now, anyone with an Internet connection could send the president an
e-mail at [email protected] But The New York Times‘ John
Markoff reported Friday that messages to that address are now bounced back
to the sender, with a message that tells the sender to use the White House
Web site’s Web mail contact form instead.

“Under a system deployed on the White House Web site for the first time
last week, those who want to send a message to President Bush must now
navigate as many as nine Web pages and fill out a detailed form that starts
by asking whether the message sender supports White House policy or differs
with it,” Markoff wrote.

Additionally, Markoff said the process of writing an e-mail to the president
requires the user to choose a subject from a provided list, and enter a
full name, organization, address and e-mail address. After sending the
message, the process is not over. The user must then wait for an automated
response, asking whether the sender intended to send the message.

The White House Web site’s FAQ says users can still use the old e-mail
address, although it also discourages it: “Yes, you may still send e-mail
messages to this address. However, as in the past, an auto-response will be
sent in reply. To ensure you receive a more substantive and personalized
response, please use the White House Web Mail system.”

The FAQ also attempted to assure users that personal information collected
through the process should not raise privacy concerns: “If you choose to
send a Web Mail to the White House the personal information you provide
will be used to respond to your message. We do not collect personal
information for any other purpose. The information you provide is not given
to any private organizations or private persons. The White House does not
collect or use information for commercial marketing. For more information
about the White House Website Privacy and Security Policy, please visit

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