Obama's Reddit AMA breaks record, Ohanian invites Romney
(CBS News) President Barack Obama answered questions from the link-sharing community Reddit on Wednesday. During a 30-minute question-and-answer session commonly referred to as an AMA - which stands for "ask me anything" - the President addressed Citizens United, the space program and Internet freedom.
Reddit is a link-sharing community that has a sub-section called "IAmA," which allows anyone to start a thread for people to ask unfiltered questions. Within 15-minutes, the thread - titled "I am Barack Obama, President of the United States -- AMA" - had already received 1,333 comments. The number of comments is currently at 22,941.
"It was a good day!" Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian told CBS News in an email. "Over 200,000 people on site hitting during the interview (mashing reload to keep seeing updates) is a new high." Reddit typically sees about 100,000 people on the site at a time.
Those familiar with Reddit may not be surprised at the turnout. While the site has a simple user interface and passionate community, it is anything but a small forum.
Reddit general manager Eric Martin told CBS News over the phone that the site passed 3 billion monthly page views in July. And Obama's AMA alone is currently at 3.8 million page views.
When asked how Reddit convinced the President to do an AMA, Ohanian told the blog AllThingsD:
"There's not a lot to it. I've gotten to know quite a few folks in the WH & Obama campaign team over the years and it was always something I brought up when I got the chance. There are quite a few redditors at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave and at the campaign HQ -- given the prominence of reddit, it's an easy sell."
Politicians have hosted AMAs in the past, including Rep. Ron Paul and former Rep. Anthony Weiner, but Obama is the most prominent host of an AMA session yet.
When asked if Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney would be asked to host an AMA, Ohanian told CBS News, "I'd been quietly working to encourage the Romney team to do one, but I went ahead and invited him publicly." In a Bloomberg report, Ohanian said that it was Romney's turn to face the Internet.
"He came out so strongly against SOPA during that CNN Republican candidate debate that it's clear he too wants Internet freedom for Americans," Ohanian told Bloomberg, referring to the Stop Online Piracy Act. Reddit played a central role in the online protests. It led to an Internet blackout in January, where websites went dark in protest of twin bills SOPA and the Protect IP Act (PIPA). "What better way to show it then to do a Reddit interview with the Internet public?"
There are about two months left until election day. If Romney does an AMA, it's likely that Ohanian will hint at an upcoming question-and-answer session. Leading up to Obama's AMA, Ohanian teased on Twitter, "There's a really special AMA coming later today."
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