Live video of town hall at bottom
The questions will be short. The answers almost certainly will not.
President Obama on Wednesday afternoon is scheduled to field a handful of the thousands of 140-character queries posed to him on Twitter in the first-ever White House Twitter town hall. Officials say the event is the latest attempt by the administration to use social networking to directly communicate with the public, bypassing the media filter.
"We've entered a different information age where people get news and information in a different way than they did in the past," White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer said Tuesday. "If you're going to communicate with the broad public, it is no longer sufficient to do it through traditional, mainstream media. You have to go beyond that. ... And we’re always on the lookout for ways to have a productive interaction with the public."
The format would "take advantage of the real-time nature" of Twitter, officials say. Outside groups will be working with Twitter to facilitate the conversation -- White House officials say they will have no role in selecting the questions.
Obama's participation will likely be similar to how he conducted town halls with Facebook or YouTube. He expects to focus on jobs and the economy, which many questions address. Users have been posing them for more than a week, using the hashtag #AskObama.
White House officials such as Pfeiffer have embraced Twitter, occasionally using it to leak out news even before sending it to reporters through traditional channels. Pfeiffer recently engaged in an online debate with a conservative columnist over the debt limit.
The White House's official Twitter account, @WhiteHouse, boasts more than 2.25 million followers. @BarackObama, the president's account, has nearly 9 million. His campaign recently announced it would operate that account now that the reelection effort is underway.
Obama is not expected to tweet himself on Wednesday, but the campaign has said he may dabble in micro-blogging soon. If he does so, he'll sign each tweet with his initials, "-BO," the campaign recently announced.
Thirty @WhiteHouse followers were selected to come to the White House for Wednesday's event for a "Tweetup." They will meet after with senior administration officials.