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Should Congressional Hearings Be Structured Like Reddit AMAs?

by Countable | 4.12.18

What’s the story?

  • Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg spent two days on Capitol Hill, answering questions across two Congressional hearings.
  • As Fast Company’s Co.Design pointed out, much of the hearing consisted of Zuckerberg “trying to keep a straight face as our elected representatives expose[d] their limited knowledge of that modern wonder we call ‘the internet.’”
  • Part of the problem, the website wrote, is the format of Congressional hearings:

“Per tradition, Congressional hearings involve several dozen Senators or Representatives crowded into a room, with each one conferred equivalent time for questioning.”
  • Instead, they ask, Why not structure Congressional hearings like Reddit AMAs?

How do Reddit AMAs work?

  • Celebrities, scientists, news-makers, and other public figures agree to participate in an Ask Me Anything (AMA) on the popular social media website. (Recent AMAs included the Grateful Dead's Steve Parish, herpetologist Kirsten Hecht, and actor Michael Imperioli.)
  • Anyone on Reddit can submit a question, and other users vote on the questions.
  • Questions with the most votes move to the top of the feed, and these, in turn, are those most-likely to get answered by the participant of the AMA.
  • Participants aren’t required to answer any question, even those with the most votes. However, as Co.Design explained, when guests "ignore the most popular questions, they are often taken to task by the community. Silence, particularly on a sensitive topic, speaks volumes.”

How would the AMA format work in Congress?

  • Rather than the public “simply watching a C-SPAN livestream of questions and testimony,” citizens would “be able to weigh in on the questions that members prioritize, in real-time.”
  • Members of Congress whose “questions receive the most votes would be given the most time” to ask, say, Zuckerberg their questions—instead of all Senators and Representatives given equal – and artificial – time blocks.

What do you think?

 Did you watch the Zuckerberg hearing? Would you prefer Congressional hearings to be structured like Reddit AMAs? Or would you prefer some other structure? Let us know, and be sure to hit Take Action to let those asking the questions know.

—Josh Herman

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