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Britain's First Social Media Election, or Not

BY Nancy Scola | Monday, May 3 2010

"Well, certainly the TV debates have made UK election coverage more vibrant, but social media is also playing a big part in this year's election. Or is it?" With four days to go before the general election in the UK, CNN International can't resist the urge to debate whether this indeed is Britain's "first Internet election," as they put it, or whether the game-changing effects that the first -- and to a lesser extent -- second and third televised debates have had on the outcome of Cameron vs. Brown vs. Clegg swamp the impact of the online conversation. The webification of the UK election is a really difficult question to parse, but Professor Roy Greenslade and Tweetminster co-founder Andrew Walker give it a go.

One strain that we're seeing in the inevitable conversation about the Americanization of the British electoral process is a focus on how the candidates and the major parties have used the web, a la the Obama campaign. There's less attention paid to how the people of Britain are reacting and shaping the events of the election online, but that, of course, is somewhat harder to make sense of, especially in the swirl of the last few days of a very compressed election.