Washington The White House is distributing government-produced, anti-drug videos on YouTube, the trendy Internet service that features clips of wacky, drug-induced behavior and step-by-step instructions for growing marijuana plants.
The decision to distribute public service announcements and other videos over YouTube represents the first concerted effort by the U.S. government to influence customers of the popular service, which shows more than 100 million videos per day.
The administration said it was not paying any money to load its previously produced videos onto YouTube's service, so the program is effectively free. Already by Tuesday, when the White House formally announced its video efforts, thousands of YouTube users had watched some of the government's videos.
"If just one teen sees this and decides illegal drug use is not the path for them, it will be a success," said Rafael Lemaitre, a spokesman for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.
The government's YouTube videos include a previously televised 30-second ad of a teenager running from a snarling dog and bemoaning pressure from his friends to smoke marijuana.
"Then today, they said I should try to outrun Tic Tic, the lumberyard dog," the teen says. "And I don't think I can. I'm an idiot."
YouTube, a San Mateo, Calif.-based startup, has become one of the Internet's hottest properties since two 20-something friends started the company 19 months ago. The free service allows users to share and view videos, most of which are amateurishly produced and include clips of young people singing and dancing - usually badly.
The government's short public service announcements - all of which were produced previously for television - are highly polished. They will compete for viewership against hundreds of existing drug-related videos that include shaky footage of college-age kids smoking marijuana and girls dancing wildly after purportedly using cocaine. Other YouTube videos describe how to grow marijuana and how to cook with it.
"Welcome to the great experiment," said Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project. He predicted computer-savvy critics of U.S. drug policies will quickly edit the government's videos to produce parodies and distribute those on YouTube. "This seems pretty new and pretty adventurous."