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Public Statements

Social Media Working Group Act of 2014

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. PAYNE. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume, and I rise in support of H.R. 4263, the Social Media Working Group Act of 2014.

The Internet has changed the world. It has changed how the government serves its citizens, how businesses serve their customers, and how the public engages in activism.

The responses to the Boston Marathon bombings and Hurricane Sandy, which devastated my State, underscores the power and the potential of social media. After each of these devastating events, we saw the Internet used to galvanize ordinary citizens into action.

In the wake of the Boston bombings, Boston residents used Google Docs to let marathoners know that their homes were open to those who were unable to return to their hotels. After Hurricane Sandy, survivors posted the horrific images of homes washed away on Twitter and Facebook to help the world understand the strength of the storm. Survivors also used social media to reconnect with loved ones and to share information about which gas stations, grocery stores, and pharmacies were open.

In my district, the local utility PSE&G used social media to communicate with customers about how to prepare for the storm to mitigate damage and about power restoration afterwards. Public Service Electric and Gas' use of social media was so effective that it was recognized by J.D. Power and Associates as a ``best practice.'' And CS Week, a nonprofit that focuses on customer service for utilities, gave PSE&G an award for innovation and customer service.

Although PSE&G's use of social media was incredibly successful, there were important lessons learned that should be shared among organizations utilizing social media during a disaster response. For example, PSE&G exceeded the allowable number of tweets per day and needed to reach out to Twitter leadership for a temporary expansion of capacity. In addition to spikes in social media use during the disaster, PSE&G learned important lessons related to the tone of communications and the demand for information during a disaster.

H.R. 4263 would authorize the Social Media Working Group that sits with the Science and Technology Directorate to facilitate the exchange of best practices and lessons learned related to the use of social media during disasters. The measure would also ensure that the Federal Government and first responders continue to fully utilize the capabilities of the Internet and social media to communicate with more people during disasters.

I would like to congratulate Subcommittee Chairwoman BROOKS on the success of her efforts to ensure the way government officials and first responders communicate with the public before, during, and after disaster strikes keeps pace with evolving technology.

I urge my colleagues to support H.R. 4263.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I have no more speakers as well, and I yield back the balance of my time.


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