When I first went to the page I was struck by the much higher ratio of positive to negative comments. Still I didn't have to look hard to find some criticism -
Here's the aptly named Betsy Bitter demanding 4 times in sequence that we "Repeal Obamacare!"
You can see that these comments have been on the page for over an hour by this point.
Next up, we have a couple of posts that seem to be straightforward spam - one selling some sort of weight loss product and one inviting people to click his link so that he can earn money for each click. Please, dear readers, do me a favour and don't do this. Thank you.
Although these are not negative comments or criticism, I'm pointing them out because these are exactly the sort of comments that a reputable page owner might well moderate to remove - after all, the page does not exist to allow others to market commercial products under the President's name. If I were advising a client on the moderation policy for this page, I might have suggested the routine removal of such spam, not least for the protection of page users. But that clearly isn't the policy here.
Here's a post from a user claiming to be Tunisian and making prodigious use of ALL CAPS: "USA... WE DON'T NEED YOUR GREETINGS TO THE TUNISIAN PEOPLE BECAUSE YOU ARE JUST EVIL COUNTRY AND YOU WERE SUPPORTING ALL THE DICTATORIAL IN MIDDLE EAST .. JUST LEAVE US ALONE AND EVERYTHING WILL BE OK."
Hmm... can't help but think that with their shared enthusiasm for being "left alone" by the US Government, perhaps this person might find unlikely common ground with the Tea Party...
But in any case - this comment was posted 7 hours before.
Here's a man in a cowboy hat posting two sequential criticisms saying, respectively:
"SEE YOU STARTED YOUR CAMPAIGN A TRIVIAL EARLY... BUT THAT WAS TO BE EXPECTED...GLAD THE OTHER TWO MORONS KEPT THEIR STINKIN MOUTHS SHUT ..HAD A LOT OF BALLS BRINGING THEM HERE TO MY TOWN."
"YOU SHOULD READ THE DRIBBLE HERE.. YOU ALL DISGUST ME..... ALL HAIL THE KING................."
I'm not completely sure what this gentleman is on about, but I don't think he's a fan.
In any case, it seems clear that there are criticisms of President Obama on the page, but not many. In fact, there aren't many posts at all - when I first looked at the page the most recent post had been published 15 minutes before.
At this point, though, I started to notice how frequently I was seeing multiple identical versions of the same post - both those that were critical of the President, and those that praised him seem frequently to have been posted repeatedly.
Putting these factors together, I started to wonder if possibly the Obama team was pre-moderating comments. Pre-moderation, means reviewing comments before they are posted so that you make an active decision to make them live, as compared to post-moderation, in which you review content after it has been posted to remove objectionable posts. That could explain the duplicate posts, as if people don't see their content go live immediately sometimes they keep trying.
So I decided to post a comment - a relatively neutral one - just to see if it would go live immediately. It did.
So there it is. Far from finding heavy-handed moderation, I couldn't actually discover any evidence that Barack's page was being moderated at all.
This is not necessarily a good thing. There is content that should - even must - be removed in compliance with Facebook's own policies. There is content that contains violent and offensive language that a page owner may well decide goes too far for his or her comfort. And as discussed, it is often a useful service for your readers to remove spam.
But the thing that disturbed me the most about the President's page is its comparative quietness. When I conducted the same exercise for Sarah Palin's page, it was virtually impossible to even keep track of the speed with which new posts were added (and, of course, often removed). But she's responsible to no constituents, holds no elected office, she is the formulator of no policies, achiever of no legislative accomplishments... at the moment, she's a TV star.
Barack Obama, on the other hand, is President of the United States, had just given one of the most widely praised speeches of his career, is preparing for his forthcoming State of the Union address, and recently signed a raft of high-impact legislation - from repealling Don't Ask Don't Tell to ratifying the START treaty. But on his Facebook page? Crickets are chirping.
Is it possible we enjoy the sensation of being angry and polarised more than the prospect of unity and accomplishment? And if so, is that the fault of our leaders for not engaging us... or us for being too easily distracted?