Keith Cowing is a blogger on Space Ref, a science blog, and was surprised recently to receive a call from the White House. White House staffer Rick Weiss reportedly called to warn him that his inclusion of the seal of Executive Office of the President of the United States violated federal law because it could be viewed as a product endorsement. A review of the blog entry demonstrates the claim to be preposterous in my view and I am unsure why the White House is spending such much time searching for seal misuses rather than . . . let’s see . . . war crimes.
Cowing had simply posted a brief post on a meeting of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. He then received the call from Weiss and distorted the image of the seal to satisfy the White House. As noted by the EFF below, the FBI has been making similar demands under 18 U.S.C. sec. 701, which is aimed at use of government seals to deceive the public.
We have previously seen objections on the use of the image of the First Lady in advertisements.
It does not appear that Rick Weiss’s own blogging is a concern in the use of multiple seals since the White House supports his blogging. One could view this as a bit of turf protection between two blogs following science issues in government.
Weiss is described on some sites as “co-editor of Science Next, former Washington Post reporter, and current director of communications at the Office of Science and Technology Policy at the White House.” He has his own active Twitter site with 246 followers. Perhaps the greatest defense for Cowing is that, at the low approval ratings of President Obama in the polls and growing anger from both liberals and conservatives over his performance, no one in their right mind would suggest an endorsement by the White House.
Besides as one of our regulars (Otteray Scribe) pointed out, we know someone who tosses around the seal all the time:
WARNING: THE INCLUSION OF THE PRESIDENTIAL SEAL ABOVE IS NOT AN ENDORSEMENT OF THIS BLOG OR ITS IDEAS OR CLAIMS OR SUGGESTIONS OR HINTS OR ELUSIONS. FOR EXAMPLE, THE PRESIDENT IS NOT ENDORSING THE LINE OF HIGH QUALITY TURLEY PRODUCTS INCLUDING “PROFESSOR ON A ROPE” SOAP, TURLEY BUSTS (IN A VARIETY OF HEROIC IMAGES), TURLEY TEESHIRTS, TURLEY COFFEE MUGS ETC. THE PRESIDENT IS NOT NECESSARILY SAYING THAT ANY GOOD AMERICAN SHOULD READ THE TURLEY BLOG AT LEAST FIVE TIMES A DAY. HOWEVER THE WHITE HOUSE IS NOT DENYING THAT THE PRESIDENT HIMSELF READS THIS BLOG AND CONSULTS ITS DAILY ENTRIES LIKE A STAR CHART EVERY MORNING.