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First POST: Sentimental

BY Micah L. Sifry | Monday, November 10 2014


  • BuzzFeed editor in chief Ben Smith has a bold post up declaring 2016 "The Facebook election" and touting his site's semi-exclusive access to Facebook sentiment data on how Democratic and Republican users say about the emerging field of presidential candidates. "The data will be granular enough to see trends among and between states, between men and women inside states, and among age groups," he writes. I think he's absolutely right that "the viral, mass conversation about politics on Facebook and other platforms has finally emerged as a third force in the core business of politics, mass persuasion" and that "the way people share will shape the outcome of the presidential election"--but it could also be that the way campaigns micro-target voters on Facebook will be the even bigger factor.

  • In addition, in my humble opinion, Smith seems a bit too excited about the chances of "an inexpensive new viral populism" taking the country (and its political class) by surprise via Facebook. Indeed he fails to address the enormous agenda-setting power of Facebook's news feed (recall how when the Ferguson protests first broke out, Facebook users saw little of that story but were inundated with "ice bucket challenge" videos?). As for the accuracy of "sentiment" data, just consider this incongruous finding: according to Smith, Facebook's data currently show New York Governor Andrew Cuomo with the exact same positive-negative ratings as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Senator Elizabeth Warren.

  • In Politico, Darren Samuelsohn details how Senate challenger Ed Gillespie nearly beat sitting Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), in part by using social media and microtargeting intensively. Among other things, conservative leaning independents apparently really "like" Buffalo Wild Wings.

  • Related: On Friday, Facebook announced that it would start giving users more control over what they see in their News Feed.

  • Samantha Allen asks a good question: why is Twitter, which has the cash to consider building a sky bridge to connect two of its buildings in San Francisco, outsourcing its gender harassment problem to a bunch of volunteers coordinated by the feminist media group WAM?

  • Women get catcalled regardless of what they're wearing, a powerful new Tumblr documents, as Matt Essert reports for PolicyMic.

  • The opposite of micro-aggression is micro-affirmation, writes An Xiao Mina, celebrating everything from a smile or a huge to "a star, a fav, a like."

  • Berlin, the global hub of anti-surveillance culture, is the subject of Carole Cadwalladr's absorbing profile of Laura Poitras in The Guardian.

  • Also in The Guardian, John Naughton goes after the new UK GCHQ chief Robert Hannigan for arguing that using cryptography to protect your privacy somehow makes you a friend of terrorists.

  • The king of social sharing, Robert Scoble, takes to Facebook to come out about his shame at being sexually abused as a boy.

  • How some American municipalities are colliding with state laws preventing them from expanding their public broadband services, as reported by Edward Wyatt in The New York Times.

  • Coming late to this, but if you haven't seen it, this Medium post on how to microtarget and optimize your kids' Halloween candy haul using public data (and local observation) by Zeeshan-ul-hassan Usmani is brilliant.

  • I'm off to London to speak at the Open Up? conference Wednesday, so First POST will be on a brief hiatus. See you Friday.