US & Canada

Barack Obama faces first Twitter 'town hall' questions

Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey speaking with President Barack Obama during the Twitter town hall event
Image caption Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey (left) moderated the town hall event for President Obama (right)

US President Barack Obama has held his first Twitter "town hall" meeting, where he answered questions posed by users of the micro-blogging website.

Mr Obama used a live webcast to answer questions, submitted via tweets containing the hashtag #AskObama, on issues from jobs to the economy.

It was held at the White House, streamed live on Twitter and moderated by Twitter's co-founder Jack Dorsey.

A panel of users re-tweeted questions to choose those to be asked.

Reducing the deficit

The president began the event by tweeting his own question: "In order to reduce the deficit, what costs would you cut and what investments would you keep?"

He then answered the question, saying the US must "make a determination in what programmes could help us grow", like programmes focused on clean air and water.

"It could cause a whole new spiral into a second recession or worse," Mr Obama said of the potential effects of a failure to reduce the deficit.

Mr Obama has previously said he wishes to reduce the deficit by $4tn (£2.45tn) in the next decade by trimming domestic spending, including defence, and raising taxes on wealthy Americans.

The first question posed by a Twitter user on Wednesday asked President Obama what mistakes he had made in handling the recession.

Mr Obama defended his administration's stimulus programme, calling it "the right thing to do".

But the president said he should have "explained to the American people that it was going to take a while for us to get out of this".

'Real-time' event

Roughly 30 of more than 2.2 million Twitter users who follow the White House account are in attendance for the event in the East Room.

While these question-and-answer sessions are usually known as "town hall" meetings in the US, this event is being called a "Tweet-up" by the Obama administration.

Several of the first questions posed to the president on Wednesday focused on the deficit.

Mr Obama said that a failure to reach an agreement to avert a US government default could trigger a second economic recession or worse.

He warned that if Congress did not reduce the deficit and the treasury did not pay the bills owed by the US, "the entire world capital market will say the full faith and credit of the US doesn't mean anything".

Macon Phillips, the White House director of digital strategy, said in a statement that the purpose of the Twitter town hall is to "try to find new opportunities to connect with Americans around the country".

Thousand of questions have been submitted since late June, Mr Phillips said.

Twitter said it would publish data about the event's online level of engagement once the digital town hall meeting had finished.

In April, the president held a similar Facebook event at that social media giant's headquarters in California. A YouTube town hall was also held at the White House in February.

The Obama administration often uses Twitter to break news and as a platform to connect with the site's users.

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