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“Yes We Can” Use the Internet for Politics

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Gone are the days where politics is only covered by news channels and newspapers. Make way for the king of communication mediums, the internet. Sadly as generations go by, the interest in watching news channels or reading newspapers is diminishing. It just does not entice the attention of the people anymore. We have become a people of technology where the more services and functions you can cram into one technology, the better. We do not want to sit at the TV and wait for a particular story. We want to read the story as and when we like. And not only that, we want to give our opinions or listen to other people’s opinions.

So where does politics come into all of this? When the elections are coming, that becomes the main story for the news all the way till the election is over. And it is the news that provides us with the story and coverage of the various parties involved in the election to help us make an informed decision as to who we would vote for. The internet has been around for a long time, but it was only in 2008 where Barack Obama used the internet so cleverly to aid his campaign that politics started to catch the attention of the people once again. He used social media to interact with the people, which gave him great access to the younger generations. And what social media allowed him to do was to communicate with the people in an informal setting, at any time, anywhere. He could have been in California doing a rally, but he could use an online streaming service to communicate with people in New York. Or he could even live stream his rallies to the entire country. We all know that we are braver behind a screen; it is anonymity courage  that allows us to say what we would never say in person. And that can also be applied to when the people ask questions to the politicians.

Even news providers have moved on to the internet. It allows for instant updates on stories or breaking news. Also they make their website into a blog format where readers can comment on stories to provide feedback or opinions. So when CNN covers Barack Obama on his campaign and posts a story on their website, readers can give their honest opinions which can affect what other readers think of Barack Obama. It also allows Barack Obama to track on what the people are saying and pick out common concerns the people have without having to talk to them at all. I would not be surprised if election candidates start creating apps for smart phones.

Here is a good read on how the internet has changed the American politics that I found on http://www.pbs.org/mediashift/2010/04/how-technology-changed-american-politics-in-the-internet-age096.html:

THE INTERNET ERA

An early moment in any timeline about modern tech development in politics is the February 1997 creation of the GOP Internet forum FreeRepublic. To put it in perspective, 1998 was the year Google was founded. It was also the year that MoveOn was created for progressives as a political community formed in response to the impeachment of President Bill Clinton.

Another early note: I would be remiss not to include the now famous 1999 Al Gore interview with Wolf Blitzer on CNN’s “Late Edition,” when the the vice president declared, “I took the initiative in creating the Internet. I took the initiative in moving forward a whole range of initiatives that have proven to be important to our country’s economic growth.” Though technically not claiming credit for the Internet, Gore’s comments would become famous.

2000

Following Sen. John McCain’s 2000 primary win in New Hampshire, the New York Times ran a story with this headline: His Success in New Hampshire Brings McCain an Overnight Infusion of Cybercash. The story cited figures released by the McCain campaign that suggested he raised more than $500,000 over the Internet in less than 24 hours after the polls closed. This was a significant moment for online fundraising.

The 2000 election year saw the Bush campaign make innovative use of phone bank technology for get-out-the-vote initiatives. It also used email lists to drive voters to action.

That campaign year was notable for the use of online ads. A study from AdRelevance, Nielsen Online’s service that tracks advertising activity, was reported in USA Today on October 30, 2000. It suggested that “Republicans used a more ‘targeted’ approach, while Democrats relied on a ‘broad reach’ effort. The Republicans, for example, ran more than 20 unique banners on 35 sites…the Democrats achieved all their exposure with a single banner ad on Yahoo.”

The AdRelevance study also reported that Republicans used online marketing tools to build a database of 700,000 names.

2001

2001 saw the emergence of popular political websites such as the Libertarian-leaningInstapundit and liberal community website MyDD. The latter was established by Jerome Armstrong, who would go on to work on Howard Dean’s presidential campaign. Armstrong’s writing on MyDD also featured one of the first references to the online-based political activism term “netroots.”

2002

2002 saw the rise of one of the web’s most popular bloggers, Markos Moulitsas of DailyKos. Two years later, Moulitsas would be among the first bloggers given press credentials to cover the Democratic National Convention in Boston.

2003

February 2003 saw a tectonic shift in how political campaigns are run, thanks to the rise of Howard Dean and his campaign’s use of Meetup to empower supporters to self-organize. The Dean campaign also created a YouTube-like online video site call Dean TV, experimented with SMS, used an online event tool called Get Local, and created a pre-Facebook-style site called Deanlink, among other pioneering innovations.

“We fell into this by accident,” Dean told Wired magazine. “I wish I could tell you we were smart enough to figure this out. But the community taught us. They seized the initiative through Meetup. They built our organization for us before we had an organization.”

According to the Wired piece, in February 2003 there were 11 Dean meetings around the country organized through Meetup. By late fall, there were more than 800 monthly meetings on the calendar.

 

Zephyr-Teachout.gifZephyr Teachout

Zephyr Teachout, director of Internet organizing for Dean For America, told me that of all the online tools experimented with and deployed during the campaign, the meeting tool was the most exciting.

 

“The meeting tool was completely opposed internally when we started designing it in May 2003,” she said. “If you ask people what [they] do for a candidate, now I think most people know that they can go to events and get other people to support them whereas 10 years ago it wouldn’t even be possible. It’s really changed people’s sense of possibility in terms of their potential interaction with a campaign.”

Another significant technical innovation in 2003 came when Arizona became the first state to implement online voter registration.

2004

2004 saw the launch of the successful Democratic online fundraising outfit ActBlue. The summer of 2004 was also marked by the Rock the Vote campaign that registered an estimated 1.2 million new voters. The campaign included a partnership with Motorola that launched a large-scale mobile political project which enabled people to sign up to receive information on their mobile devices.

That same year, the Washington Times had reported in August that Daily Kos received about 200,000 visitors a day during the Democratic National Convention.

And on September 9, bloggers for the right-leaning site Power Line published a post suggesting Dan Rather’s “60 Minutes II” report on George W. Bush’s National Guard serviceincluded some fraudulent memos. The post and the more than 500 other sites that linked to it are credited with exposing the report and later causing CBS News to apologize, leading to Dan Rather’s resignation. Time Magazine named Power Line Blog of the Year.

2005

In early 2005, three former PayPal employees, Steve Chen, Chad Hurley and Jawed Karim created YouTube. The popular video sharing site has significantly changed political campaigns, by allowing citizens to post their own video from campaign events, including politicians making faux pas.

By May of 2005 a new site called The Huffington Post was launched by Arianna Huffington, Kenneth Lerer, and Jonah Peretti that would add a new dynamic to online political coverage.

Today, politicians with blogs are very common, but in 2005 Georgia Rep. Jack Kingston established the first Congressional blog with the help of rising GOP Internet guru David All.

In 2005, another GOP Internet tech star, Patrick Ruffini, the webmaster for the 2000 Bush campaign, launched the highly successful “eCampaign” operation while at the Republican National Committee.

2006

By 2006, political campaigns online were widespread and in full force. In June, one of the first to test out the use of YouTube for their campaign was Georgia Rep. Jack Kingston. He posted a video of what his campaign called Mailtube, an attempt to reach out to constituents through the use of online video.

YouTube started to take hold of the political imagination when, on August 15, 2006, then Sen. George Allen (R-VA) called opposition campaign volunteer S.R. Sidarth “macaca.” The videowent viral and is seen as a major turning point that led to Allen’s electoral defeat.

2006 was also the year that the Rightroots coalition was created to support GOP candidates online. The site raised over $300,000 for different candidates.

2007

Zephyr Teachout said the initial use of most technologies is not where it ends up having an impact. She cites the Dean campaign’s use of Meetup and email as examples. Echoing this point, 2007 saw some of the most notable uses of technology in political campaigns. One example is how Barack Obama’s team took the social networking suite developed by the Dean campaign to a new level with Blue State Digital’s creation of My.BarackObama.com.

Facebook gave rise to an enormous constituency of political activity in 2008, and upstart Twitter dipped its toes in the campaign waters. One of the biggest tech innovations of the year came on July 23, when CNN held the first YouTube Debate for the Democrats in Charleston, S.C. The Dems were followed by the GOP’s November 28 YouTube Debate in St. Petersburg, Fla.

2007 also saw an innovative use of distributed online video by Mike Huckabee’s campaign for the GOP nomination. Ron Paul, building on Howard Dean’s pioneering fundraising efforts, created the money bomb which raised $4.3 million in 24 hours on November 5 largely through online donations. Paul did it again on Dec. 16 when his campaign brought in $6 million in 24 hours, which Fox News called the biggest one-day take ever.

In other 2007 notes, Slatecard was created by David All and Sendhil Panchadsaram as a website that funneled contributions to conservative candidates. All also started the group blogTechRepublican, focusing on the intersection of Republican politics and technology. (In April 2009, TechRepublican was awarded the Golden Dot Award for the Best Blog in National Politics).

Another tech innovation launched in 2007 was the Ustream.tv platform for live online interactive video broadcasts. The technology was been widely used by politicians, including by Barack Obama when he appeared with Oprah during a South Carolina rally which included 74,000 participants.

2008

Supported by online campaigning, the Democrats had a good election year in 2008, taking large majorities in both houses of Congress and celebrating the election of Barack Obama.

Tech innovations played a big role in the election successes of the Dems. One notable highlight was the August 28 text from the Obama campaign:

“Breaking news: the text message is out and it’s official… Barack Obama has selected Joe Biden to be his running mate!”

In October 2008, the Obama campaign released its free Obama08 app, which organized a person’s iPhone contacts to enable supporters to call friends located in important electoral districts among other features.

While much of the attention in 2008 was on the Democrats, in the spring of 2008 The Next Right was formed as a GOP imitation of the huge left-wing community Daily Kos and MyDD.

In other significant tech innovations, Facebook Connect was launched in July. Connect is a set of APIs from Facebook that enables Facebook members to log onto third-party websites. The release of the API paved the way for the David All Group development of the award winning Act.ivi.st, which integrates with a campaign and sends out messages to the online communities including Facebook and Twitter.

 

David-All.gifDavid All

“The idea of web surfing is so dead,” All told me. “Once you get people to a website, it’s rare they are going to go back too often. But, every single day they are going to be logging into Facebook and they are going to be engaging with that community. So if your news can be liked or commented on and engaged with it is really powerful.”

 

2009

After one of the biggest election years in modern history, in March 2009 New York’s 20th congressional district held a special election. Democrat Scott Murphy’s successful run was supported by a new tech innovation from Google, theGoogle Blast Advertising Campaign, which blanketed sites running Google AdSense with Murphy ads targeted to people in his district.

2010

With elections fast approaching, we’re bound to see new kinds of tech innovation that will turn heads this year. I recently wrote here on MediaShift about how the election of Scott Brown in Massachusetts was aided by a smartphone app created for GOP candidates called Walking Edge. It offered Brown’s canvassers a database of where undecided voters and supporters live. The app used geo-location tools and Google Maps so that after canvassers made contact with a person, they could update the database in real time.

The Walking Edge falls squarely in what Zephyr Teachout describes as the “data oligarch” model, which is designed to create massive databases. But Teachout said there is also the potneital for the Internet to allow for more civic organizing.

“[The Internet is] one of the greatest collective action problem-solving tools in world history,” Teachout said. “These are constantly in tension with each other.”

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Written by Jacob

April 20, 2012 at 4:52 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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