White House to allow photos, social media on public tours

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Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Want to take a picture inside the White House Blue Room? Well, it's now OK to pull out your cellphone or camera and press "shoot."

The White House on Wednesday ended a long-standing ban on tourists taking photos or using social media during public tours of the building. Michelle Obama made the announcement in a video posted on her Instagram account.

"If you've been on a White House tour, you may have seen this sign," she says, holding up a placard that states "No Photos or Social Media Allowed." `'Well, not anymore," she adds, and then dramatically rips the sign in half.

Those visiting the presidential mansion on Wednesday with cameras in hand may have also taken note of another visual: sharp, metal spikes being installed atop the White House fence. The Secret Service upgrade comes amid concerns about would-be intruders scaling the fence and jeopardizing the president's security, but is intended as a temporary measure until a long-term change for the fence can be put in place.

The White House said the more than 40-year-old photo ban was lifted because changes in camera technology make it possible to take high-quality photos using less light. Strong light can damage the delicate pigments used in art work.

Tourists arriving Wednesday were busily taking pictures.

"I'm very happy they changed the rule. I'm taking as many as I can," said Michael Labrecque of Palm Harbor, Florida. He posed in the East Room with sons Madison, 11, and Mason, 9, as his wife Melinda looked on.

Korey Richardson, 47, of San Jose, California, was on his first White House tour.

"I'm taking tons of pictures, at least 30 so far," Richardson said. "I've already uploaded some to Facebook friends."

Other visitors took photographs of a new sign that said: "Photography is Encouraged."

Still on the banned list are video cameras, including action camcorders, cameras with detachable lenses, tablets, tripods, monopods and camera sticks. Flash photography and live-streaming also remain prohibited.