On August 26th, President Obama publicly responded to a Facebook message sent to him by a citizen—a first for any president in history. Since then, he has received over one and a half million Facebook messages, sent from people based all around the world.
While receiving messages from the public isn’t a recent phenomenon—every day, the White House receives thousands of phone calls, physical letters, and submissions through our online contact form—being able to contact the President through Facebook has never been possible before. Today, it’s able to happen because of the first-ever government bot on Facebook messenger.
We think that’s pretty cool.
It’s also an important part of furthering our mission to “meet the public where they are.” Millions of people contact their friends and family using Facebook Messenger. Why shouldn’t they be able to contact the White House, too?
And President Obama really reads these messages. Since 2009, he’s made it part of his daily routine to read 10 letters sent to him by citizens—something he refers to as the best part of his day.
That’s why, today, we’re open-sourcing this White House technology, with the hope that other governments and developers can build similar services—and foster similar connections with their citizens— with significantly less upfront investment.
To be specific, we are open-sourcing a Drupal module, complete with easy steps and boiler plate code. This will enable Drupal 8 developers to quickly launch a Facebook Messenger bot. We also left a few lines in the repository describing our hopes for the future of the code and encouraging members of the developer community to get involved.
While Drupal may not be the platform others would immediately consider for building a bot, this new White House module will allow non-developers to create bot interactions (with customized language and workflows), and empower other governments and agencies who already use Drupal to power their digital experiences.
Now, there is one less barrier to being more accessible and responsive to constituents. We look forward to seeing what others build on top of this work.