Influence of digital media on politics

After a great workshop by Kelly Dempski of Accenture about marketing opportunities using social media (take time to read : Setting the stage for the social network landscape), we had the opportunity to listen to Rahaf Harfoush (World Economic Forum).

In 2008, she was part of the Obama team winning the US election and here are her observations about social media :

The Obama campaign was the first example of how digital media can influence political campaigns. It was the first time such tools were used that way.
The Obama team was then able to reach every corner of America without having the financial resources at first to physically reach them. As a result, some figures show the success of such a process :

  • 2 million profiles created
  • 35’000 volunteer groups
  • 400’000 blog posts
  • 200’000 side events

Working with social networks helped redefining relationships. By creating relationships with supporters they felt more involved in the election (Displaying infos about B. Obama in daily campaign life on Facebook, YouTube, MySpace, Twitter….). As a consequence and when trying to raise money through these media, Obama raised twice as much money as McCain by using social network (67% of that money came from online sources….).

Rahaf Harfoush observes that the use of digital media, increased focus on government transparency and open data (acceptability). Since President Obama is in the White House, US government opened websites to give transparent information about governmental actions and issues :

On the citizens’ side, things are moving as well :

  • ushahidi.org (reporting problems and frauds in African elections)
  • Iran protests and use of Twitter as only channel of communication left (government closed websites, SMS services, news offices….)

Where are we going ? (Near Future)

According to Rahaf Harfoush, we face an Evolving Digital Activism. People get generally more involved politically through social networks and social media (example : http://uncaucus.org/en) and use these tools to be heard.
They are trends towards a surge in number and scale of these kinds of movements, and potential violent response from government having no interest in transparency
(see Chavez – Venezuela against Twitter – terrorist media…).

She also notes the new Role of Corporations. Never before, products of companies has had such an impact on governmental actions (Google, Gmail vs China or Iran, Twitter vs Venezuela…). It was made obvious when, for example, US asked Twitter to postpone maintenance while Iran protest….

There’s an ongoing battle where each new event creates a precedent. It is something that impacts all of us. But there’s an important risk of Slacktivism instead of real activism in the field… (also read : The brave new world of slacktivism).

>> See also : 5 Ways Government Works Better With Social Media

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