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The Merging of Politics and Social Networks

To add to Deven’s post below about Obama and technology it was recently reported here that Obama spent $8 million on online advertising:

Google remains the clear winner of Obama’s Web spoils, though the search giant’s payments for October have yet to appear in the campaign’s Federal Election Commission filings. The company collected $3.5 million from Obama for America, according to the latest FEC reports analyzed by ClickZ News. Keeping with a trend established early this year, Yahoo remains a distant second, having garnered around $673,000 from the campaign.

In addition, the same article notes that Obama spent almost half a million dollars on Facebook as well. This blog notes:

ClickZ published a report today which suggests Facebook received a whopping $467,000 from the Obama campaign, “$370,000 of which was spent in September alone.” That’s a more than impressive statistic considering that the campaign spent $8 million in total online. Perhaps it has something to do with Chris Hughes who was a co-Founder of Facebook and left to join the Obama campaign? There’s no way to determine why so much was spent on Facebook but in comparison, only $11,500 was spent on MySpace before it disappeared from their budget.

There is also a more sinister seeming story about Chris Hughes, the Obama campaign, and Facebook that was mostly ignored by the mainstream media and political bloggers alike. Hillary Clinton also tried to use Facebook to advance her campaign, but unlike Obama’s, which functioned pretty well, hers continually crashed, and her campaign says when they asked Facebook for better technical support, they were ignored.

Many journalists actually blamed the Clinton campaign for this, asserting that Clinton didn’t “get” technology and implying that this was because her campaign staffers were too old, and/or a bunch of dumb girls (see generally this, this, this and this). The biggest political group on Facebook, outstripping even the pro-Obama cluster, was an entity of Clinton haters entitled Stop Hillary Clinton (One Million Strong AGAINST Hillary). See also. As one blogger noted when the Clinton group was forced to go “private” :

There are some major questions about Facebook’s role here. At a minimum, failing to fix the bug hampering a political activism group for three key months during the primary season is very irresponsible. And especially given Facebook founder Chris Hughes’ role with, since the much-larger Obama group wasn’t suffering from this bug it certainly gives the appearance of anti-Clinton bias. In Facebook’s “defense”, I should point out that many of the Obama supporters who were censored by Facebook in February and March brought up accusations of anti-Obama bias. Then again, a couple of months ago Facebook did tell one of the Obama group members that they were going to introduce a mechanism to ban an IP address, not just a profile, from a group in response to our requests for help dealing with repeated trolls. If they actually did implement this while ignoring the Clinton requests, it raises some troubling questions — about their software engineering process, and possibly more deeply.

I am not a disgruntled Clinton supporter. I housed numerous Obama campaign workers during the South Carolina primary, I gave money to Obama, I canvassed for Obama, and I did voter protection work for the Obama campaign, in addition to voting for him. But I think this needs a thorough investigation, though I don’t have much optimism that will happen.

1 thought on “The Merging of Politics and Social Networks”

  1. In terms of Obama’s spending on Facebook, I think the simplest explanation is that this is a highly-cost-effective way to reach some of their targeted demographics. Craig Berger’s recent post on Future Majority discusses the impact of $42 in Facebook ad spending …

    In terms of the anti-Hillary group, her condescending description of the Obama campaign as “looking like Facebook” probably has something to do with her unpopularity there. A general dynamic is that groups opposing somebody/something are typically larger than positive groups; as reference, there are several 2-million-person-plus groups against the new Facebook layout.

    [By the way, that Wired story you linked to is over a year old. “One Million Strong for Barack” and “I bet I can find 1,000,000 people who dislike George Bush!” are both bigger than the anti-Clinton group.]

    her campaign says when they asked Facebook for better technical support, they were ignored.

    A couple of clarifications here: the request you link to isn’t from her campaign; it’s from the admin of a group supporting her which was unaffiliated from the campaign (just as One Million Strong for Barack was unaffiliated with the Obama campaign). Also, once things escalated, Mark Zuckerberg got involved and the Clinton group’s problem was quickly addressed.

    The Obama group was 10 to 20 times bigger than the Clinton group at the time the requests were made, and so I think it’s a mistake to view this as a reason for Clinton’s smaller Facebook presence. My view is that the online organizers for the Obama campaign focused on social networks from the beginning (especially with myBO and Facebook); the Clinton campaign didn’t.

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