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Daily Digest: Bring Your Spam to the "Astroturf" Picnic

BY Joshua Sherman | Friday, August 8 2008

The Web on the Candidates

  • New vs. Traditional Media. Which is More Delicious? The Next Right’s Brian Donahue responds to Patrick Ruffini’s post on “new media” vs. “traditional media” and posits they are not mutually exclusive and offers a new approach. Ruffini asked the other day “Why do TV ad suck so much compared to web video?” According to Donahue, the two are "apples and oranges" and each has benefits. The successful campaign must combine them and create a comprehensive advertising strategy.#

  • Cybersecurity and the next President: Wired writer Bruce Schneier has a memo for the next President on how to get Cybersecurity right. While Obama has a cybersecurity plan and McCain is supposedly “working on the issues,” Schneier offers three pieces of policy advice for whoever is elected. He says the devil is in the details, but he outlines a convincing strategy.#

  • "Democracts Praising McCain" vs. "Maverick No More": The DNC has released its response video to McCain’s “Democrats Praising McCain” ad released yesterday. The video, called “Maverick No More,” features the same crew from the McCain ad, only this time the participants criticize McCain, most notably by arguing that he has changed and that he is a continuation of Bush. Instead of Ms. Clinton capping it off as she did in the "Democrats Praising McCain" ad, however, the DNC decided to give the honor to Bush, who says, "It's been my honor to welcome my friend John McCain as the nominee of the Republican Party, I wish you all the best. I'm proud to be your friend.”#

The Candidates on the Web

  • Astroturf Story #1: The Washington Post's Paul Farhi covers the McCain campaign asking its supporters to spam blogs with McCain talking points in exchange for prizes, a story that's been bouncing around for weeks. The website asks visitors to “Spread the Word” and gives clear instructions on what to write and where to write it. Zack Exley notes this strategy won't matter: "People in politics aren't motivated by points. That's not what gets people to act. They're motivated by genuinely caring about the issues." A phony grassroots movement like this, known as “Astroturf” campaigning, is not new to Presidential elections but the Washington Post notes the reward system pushes it “one step further.” Prizes include books autographed by McCain, preferred seating at campaign events, a ride with the candidate on the Straight Talk Express: no word yet on moustache combs. #

  • YouTube Dominance: The Washington Times's Stephen Dinan reports that the McCain campaign for the first time has taken a lead over Obama in YouTube hits. This is a major reversal for the presidential YouTube campaign, which, until just recently, had seen Obama quadruple McCain’s view count. Obama still trumps McCain in total views and according to techPresident's YouTube watch, that lead is not going anywhere anytime soon. Still, McCain has had a strong run of viral videos in the last few weeks while Obama has been flat. McCain’s top three hits are all attack ads on Obama, so it will be interesting to see if the YouTube campaign will be won by the message or the view count. #

TechCongress and Beyond

  • Astroturf Story #2: Open Left’s Matt Stoller goes on a lengthy diatribe over the Drill Here, Drill Now #dontgo campaign. He had posted just days before on how the campaign is hardly grassroots because it was launched by Newt Gingrich (another “Astroturf” campaign!) and today is responding to blogger and “grassroots activist” Eric Odom who was disturbed by this claim. Odom extols the campaigns 10,000 e-mail list, Stoller is unimpressed.#

In Case You Missed It...



News Briefs

RSS Feed thursday >

Civic Hackers Call on de Blasio to Fill Technology Vacancies

New York City technology advocates on Wednesday called on the de Blasio administration to fill vacancies in top technology policy positions, expressing some frustration at the lack of a leadership team to implement a cohesive technology strategy for the city. GO

China's Porn Purge Has Only Just Begun, And Already Sina Is Stripped of Publication License

It seems that China is taking spring cleaning pretty seriously. On April 13 they launched their most recent online purge, “Cleaning the Web 2014,” which will run until November. The goal is to rid China's Internet of pornographic text, pictures, video, and ads in order to “create a healthy cyberspace.” More than 100 websites and thousands of social media accounts have already been closed, after less than a month. Today the official Xinhua news agency reported that the authorities have stripped the Internet giant Sina (of Sina Weibo, the popular microblogging site) of its online publication license. This crackdown on porn comes on the heels of a crackdown on “rumors.” Clearly, this spring cleaning isn't about pornography, it's about censorship and control.


wednesday >

Another Co-Opted Hashtag: #MustSeeIran

The Twitter hashtag #MustSeeIran was created to showcase Iran's architecture, landscapes, and would-be tourist destinations. It was then co-opted by activists to bring attention to human rights abuses and infringements. Now Twitter is home to two starkly different portraits of a country. GO

What Has the EU Ever Done For Us?: Countering Euroskepticism with Viral Videos and Monty Python

Ahead of the May 25 European Elections, the most intense campaigning may not be by the candidates or the political parties. Instead, some of the most passionate campaigns are more grassroots efforts focused on for a start stirring up the interest of the European electorate. GO

At NETmundial Brazil: Is "Multistakeholderism" Good for the Internet?

Today and tomorrow Brazil is hosting NETmundial, a global multi-stakeholder meeting on the future of Internet governance. GO

Brazilian President Signs Internet Bill of Rights Into Law at NetMundial

Earlier today Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff sanctioned Marco Civil, also called the Internet bill of rights, during the global Internet governance event, NetMundial, in Brazil.


tuesday > Reboots As a Candidate Digital Toolkit That's a Bit Too Like launched with big ambitions and star appeal, hoping to crack the code on how to get millions of people to pool their political passions through their platform. When that ambition stalled, its founder Nathan Daschle--son of the former Senator--decided to pivot to offering political candidates an easy-to-use free web platform for organizing and fundraising. Now the new is out from stealth mode, entering a field already being served by competitors like NationBuilder, Salsa Labs and And strangely enough, seems to want its early users to ask for help. GO

Armenian Legislators: You Can Be As Anonymous on the 'Net As You Like—Until You Can't

A proposed bill in Armenia would make it illegal for media outlets to include defamatory remarks by anonymous or fake sources, and require sites to remove libelous comments within 12 hours unless they identify the author.


monday >

The Good Wife Looks for the Next Snowden and Outwits the NSA

Even as the real Edward Snowden faces questions over his motives in Russia, another side of his legacy played out for the over nine million viewers of last night's The Good Wife, which concluded its season long storyline exploring NSA surveillance. In the episode titled All Tapped Out, one young NSA worker's legal concerns lead him to becoming a whistle-blower, setting off a chain of events that allows the main character, lawyer Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies), and her husband, Illinois Governor Peter Florrick (Chris Noth), to turn the tables on the NSA using its own methods. GO

The Expanding Reach of China's Crowdsourced Environmental Monitoring Site, Danger Maps

Last week billionaire businessman Jack Ma, founder of the e-commerce company Alibaba, appealed to his “500 million-strong army” of consumers to help monitor water quality in China. Inexpensive testing kits sold through his company can be used to measure pH, phosphates, ammonia, and heavy metal levels, and then the data can be uploaded via smartphone to the environmental monitoring site Danger Maps. Although the initiative will push the Chinese authorities' tolerance for civic engagement and activism, Ethan Zuckerman has high hopes for “monitorial citizenship” in China.


The 13 Worst Bits of Russia's Current and Maybe Future Internet Legislation

It appears that Russia is on the brink of passing still more repressive Internet regulations. A new telecommunications bill that would require popular blogs—those with 3,000 or more visits a day—to join a government registry and conform to government-mandated standards is expected to pass this week. What follows is a list of the worst bits of both proposed and existing Russian Internet law. Let us know in the comments or on Twitter if we missed anything.