Personal Democracy Plus Our premium content network. LEARN MORE You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

Online, Next Presidential Debate Will Feature a Moderator that Wasn't

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, October 11 2012

Five days from now, President Obama and Governor Romney will meet for their second debate at Hofstra University, answering voters' questions in a live town hall forum format.

For the last week or so, Google has been promoting a page called "Your Questions for the Candidates," encouraging users to post and vote on potential questions for the moderator to ask. More than 20,000 people have done so, some of them prompted by online advocacy campaigns by various groups.

The site announces:

"The Commission on Presidential Debates will give a selection of your questions to CNN's Candy Crowley, who will be moderating the debate and asking questions of the two nominees."

Unfortunately, this isn't really what is going to happen.

A high-level source in CNN's news department tells me that they are not taking questions via email, Twitter, Google Moderator or any other online source for the October 16th debate. Given the debate's town-hall format, where questions are going to be asked by a panel of undecided voters selected by the Gallup Organization, there really isn't a meaningful way to bring in questions from the online public.

When told that CNN had said that is was not going to be taking questions from Google Moderator, despite the boilerplate on Google's website, CPD co-chair Mike McCurry responded:

In the case of Crowley and the town hall debate, we will be happy to provide a list of curated questions from the Google exercise to Candy and her CNN team. They can do with it what they will. For example, the ranking of questions might help Candy decide which citizens to call on during the town hall ... however there is no guarantee of that. It's up to her.

Google spokeswoman Samantha Smith said in an email that the Moderator site was part of Google's contribution to the "Voice Of" initiative around the debates, and referred requests for comment back to CPD.

This is only the umpteenth time we've seen national political organizations, the news media and tech companies advertising an "unprecedented" merger of the Internet and traditional politics, only to discover that there's really no there there. Perhaps it's time for a new term for these encounters: political vaporware, when name-brand tech companies and media enterprises flash their brands at the public and promise a revolutionary new venture in digital democracy, and then no one really does anything serious.

News Briefs

RSS Feed today >

First POST: Transparency Matters

A return to pre-Watergate days?; Jeb Bush has already, apparently, forgotten about "transparency matters"; ghostwriting for government agencies; X-Lab going independent; and much, much more. GO

tuesday >

First POST: Waking Up

Hillary Clinton's deleted emails might not be as gone as she thinks; people making decisions about encryption know nothing about encryption; Meerkat is dead (already); finding out that Facebook filters the newsfeed is, to some like waking up in the Matrix; and much, much more. GO

monday >

First POST: Clueless

Why boycotting Indiana isn't the greatest idea; but people and companies are still doing it anyway; "Flak for Slack chaps in yak app hack flap"; and much, much more. GO

friday >

First POST: Net Effects

Ballooning digital campaign teams; early registration deadlines kept millions of people from voting in 2012; love letters to Obamacare; and much, much more. GO

thursday >

First POST: Data-Driven

Get to know Clinton's digital team even better; Ted Cruz election announcement-related fundraising offers peak into the coming data-driven campaign arms race; New York City launches online community engagement pilot program called IdeaScale; and much, much more. GO

More