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Why Facebook's 'Voter Megaphone' Is the Real Manipulation to Worry About

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, July 3 2014

Two years ago, on the morning of the 2012 election in the United States, I got an email with an urgent subject line: "You should write the story of how Facebook blew an opportunity to turn out 300k voters." The sender, a veteran progressive online activist who would prefer to remain anonymous, was upset for good reason. The election was bound to be close, and as of 10am that morning he hadn't yet seen an "I'm Voting" button on his Facebook page, nor had another colleague of his. Nor was one on my own Facebook page. Given that when Facebook deployed a similar "I Voted" button in 2010, and added messages in users' News Feeds showing them the names and faces of friends who had said they voted, the cumulative effect boosted turnout then by at least 340,000 votes, these activists had good reason to be concerned. Facebook had announced that it was going to do the same thing in 2012, and this time around its American user base had grown enormously, from 61 million to more than 160 million. A social and visible nudge like an "I 'm Voting" button had the potential to measurably increase turnout, even more so as Facebook was including a useful tool to help people find their polling places. And yet on Election Day 2012 its deployment was far from universal. Facebook was conducting research on us. Read More

Did That Really Happen? A 2012 Tech-Politics News Quiz

BY Micah L. Sifry | Monday, December 17 2012

It's Friday afternoon and some folks think the world is supposed to end today, so we thought, while we wait for the apocalypse, why not make it fun to relive the highlights of the last year? What really did or didn't happen in the world of tech-politics last year? This quiz covers the hard questions. So, for your pleasure and amusement, try to match your wits against ours. No cheating. Answers at the bottom of the post. Read More

Romney Campaign Digital Director: Online Efforts Enjoyed Success

BY Miranda Neubauer | Wednesday, December 12 2012

In a blog post, Zac Moffatt wrote that just because the Romney campaign lost the election doesn't mean its digital efforts were not successful. Read More

Presidential Campaign 2012, By the Numbers

BY Micah L. Sifry | Monday, November 26 2012

While not all of the numbers are in yet, we thought it would be useful to put in one place all the relevant data currently available about online and offline engagement by the Barack Obama and Mitt Romney campaigns. Some of these factoids are essentially unverifiable, but represent the claims being made by the campaigns in press reports. Others are drawn from available social network profiles and/or contemporaneous Google searches. Read More

Republican Digerati to the Party Establishment: "There You Go Again"

BY Sarah Lai Stirland | Wednesday, November 14 2012

Some Republicans feel their brand is battered after 2012. Photo: Flickr/Johnath

Exclusively for Personal Democracy Plus subscribers: For several digital strategists in the Republican party, 2012 is a haunting replay of 2008: As they ponder the magnitude of their party’s losses up and down the ballot, they’re casting around looking for leaders outside of the traditional party structure, which has failed them, in their eyes, two presidential election cycles in a row. The problems, they say, are both technological and organizational, the result of a failure to adjust the party platform for a changing America and to adapt an approach to the web for changing times. Veterans among the party's digerati hear the young Republicans who want to seize the levers of power and overhaul their political machine singing a tune that sounds depressingly familiar. Read More

For Romney's Digital Campaign, a Second-Place Finish

BY Nick Judd | Wednesday, November 7 2012

At every phase of the campaign, Mitt Romney's digital operation was half a step behind the technological savvy of Barack Obama's online team — at several moments, announcing features or ideas hours, days or months after the Obama campaign had already rolled them out. Read More

The Rise and Fall of Social Media in American Politics (And How it May Rise Again)

BY Micah L. Sifry | Tuesday, November 6 2012

Four years ago for us here techPresident, Election Day was a moment to reflect on the Internet's impact on the campaign, and in particular how so many voters had ventured onto the playing field of politics by using new interactive media, self-publishing tools like blogs and YouTube, and nascent social networks like Facebook. But if you've spent any time reading techPresident this cycle, you've noticed that we've more or less stopped paying close attention to social media metrics. The reason is, they didn't make a difference to the race. The question is why. Read More

Democrats Hope To Outorganize Republicans In GOTV Smartphone War

BY Sarah Lai Stirland | Monday, November 5 2012

As expected, President Obama's campaign will also rely on a smartphone system to enable volunteers to monitor who's showing up at the polls in battleground states. Read More

If Obama Wins on Tuesday, Give the Nerds More Credit

BY Micah L. Sifry | Monday, November 5 2012

While Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight, math nerd and poll-meister supreme, has gotten a tremendous amount of attention of late for his confident prediction of an Obama victory in tomorrow's election, the largely unwritten story of 2012 includes a different group of math nerds who specialize in figuring out which voters might be persuaded to vote for their candidate and then making sure that they maximize the number of people who actually come out to vote that way. We know very little about their work for two big reasons. First, neither campaign has wanted to tip off their opponent to what they're doing, and second, with just a few rare exceptions, political reporters and their story-assignment editors aren't even looking to find out. But tomorrow is the biggest test yet for their analytic approach to targeting, persuading and turning out voters. Read More

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New Media Sites in Iran Blur Lines Between Citizen Journo, Professional Journo, & Activist

In 2010, Newsweek declared Iran the “birthplace of citizen journalism.” Iranian bloggers were hailed by Westerners as “brave” for their coverage of the aftermath of the disputed 2009 election. A 40-second video of the death of Neda Agha-Soltan during an anti-government protest won a prestigious George Polk Award, the first anonymously-produced work to be so honored. And then came the 2013 study “Whither Blogestan,” which sought to explain Iran's shrinking blogosphere. Of nearly 25,000 highly active and connected blogs in 2008 and 2009, only 20 percent were still online in September 2013.

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