President Barack Obama will read 10 messages submitted through Facebook Messenger every night, the White House announced today.
Now anyone with a Facebook can send a message to Obama through the White House’s new Messenger bot, and if you’re lucky, yours might be the last thing the President sees before he goes to bed. That’s right: The White House is jumping on the perplexing, questionably useful Messenger bot trend.
“Hi! It’s great to hear from you — and we’re excited to learn what’s on your mind,” the Messenger bot says as soon as you start a conversation. “Fun fact: the President reads ten of these messages every night.”
Reading letters from the public is something that Obama, and many other presidents dating back to Thomas Jefferson, have always done. Obama’s staff calls the letters he reads the “10 LADs,” or 10 letters a day, White House chief digital officer Jason Goldman explains in a blog post.
Letters from citizens initially came through snail mail, then through phone calls, then through a message form on the White House website. Now, Obama’s meeting the people where they already are: Facebook.
The announcement doesn’t include the decision-making process the White House uses to filter out messages and decide which ones to show to Obama. Also, actually submitting a message through the bot isn’t as easy as spewing out a few grammatically incorrect sentences and hitting send.
The Messenger bot first asks if the message you entered is the whole message, then asks you to double check (“to catch any typos”), then asks for your mailing address, email, and phone number. Who needs an encrypted Messenger app when you can just straight up ask for identifying information?
It’s hard to imagine that simple chatbot filters could stop a dedicated Facebook troll, though.
“We try to make sure as many people as possible get responses,” the chatbot tells users before asking for contact information.
In this case, the medium defines the message. People are less likely to send long rambling letters over Messenger, so it shouldn’t be too much of a time drag for Obama to read the promised 10.
Want to try your hand at crafting a personal letter to the president? It’s as easy as heading over to the White House Facebook page.