Did a rogue Twitter account confuse White House town hall participants?

An apparently unrelated Twitter account named @askobama collected more than a thousand users and dozens of tweets in the days before the White House Twitter Town Hall.

White House officials fielded thousands of questions from the public in advance of President Barack Obama's first “Twitter Town Hall” event July 6, but the existence of an apparent rogue Twitter account suggests that some questions intended for the White House might have gone astray.

Federal officials invited the public to submit questions for the town hall on the Twitter website with the #askobama hashtag. A hashtag is a content label that enables the questions to be easily collected and viewed as a group on Twitter. Thousands of questions reportedly were submitted with that hashtag.

However, the existence of an @askobama Twitter account may have confused some users. The account appears to be new and is listed in the name of “A.J. Obama.” It has no tweets, follows no accounts and has no information published about its owner. There is no indication that the @askobama Twitter account has any official connection with the White House, the president or the Twitter Town Hall event.

Nevertheless, as of July 6, the @askobama account had 1,245 followers. Furthermore, a reporter’s searches of Twitter revealed that numerous users referred to @askobama as an affiliated account of the White House town hall event, apparently by mistake.

It was not immediately clear if the existence of @askobama was a deliberate prank or an attempt to affect the town hall. 

What happened to questions tweeted to @askobama instead of #askobama? Apparently there was no response, because @askobama has not broadcasted any tweets; the account holder did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Any disgruntled members of the public who wonder whether their questions got lost should check their hashtags to make sure the questions were sent to #askobama instead of @askobama.

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