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Online presence pertinent to election

A disturbing phenomenon in political party campaigning uses fake online-proxy systems that flood forms of online journalism (newspapers, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, etc.) with counterfeit commentary.

This system essentially sifts out specific buzzwords from stories published on the Internet, and automatically comments with a standardized message that argues for the particular political party’s views. For example, this system could find stories that include the word “occupy,” then use an anonymous or fake account to leave a comment about Occupy Wall Street, regardless of whether or not the story is actually about the Occupy movement.

The system, apart from spewing counterfeit ideas that cloud the ideas produced by a writer, is producing commentary that is geared to be so politically charged that it tends to spark vicious debates among readers.

With the vast differences in communication tools, technology and the way people consume news, opinions about political figures are being portrayed in a different light nowadays. The whole process is further encouraging the prevalence of online campaigning, which has yet to fully impact a presidential election.

In the 2008 presidential election, one of President Barack Obama’s notable campaigning strengths was his presence as a pop culture icon. The nation’s first black president swept the nation, as a face on a T-shirt and the subject of a rap song. Celebrities swooned over him, as did the youth. Through his status as a pop culture symbol, Obama was able to capture the hearts of the young and the young-at-heart: people who believed in cultural and social progress. Obama used popular culture to create a face of social change and made voters believe that he was different from other politicians.

Today though, things have changed. Social networking is the force behind popular culture. In 2008, social media tools were flourishing, but not even close to as much as they are now. In 2008, Facebook had barely started selling advertisements, had only just recently launched in different languages, and only had about 100 million users. While it did co-sponsor presidential debates with ABC News as a first step into the campaigning and political world, it was still young. Today, Facebook has more than 750 million users and is affiliated with CNN Live as well as ABC News.

Twitter, the world’s easiest access to news in fewer than 140 characters, has only been around five years, barely hitting the presidential campaign season. Like most social networking sites, with time it became more popular and essential. Since news companies and public figures now use Twitter, it has become a prime source of information to people — a perfect campaign approach.

With people of all ages and generations using Facebook and Twitter, it will be interesting to see what tactics candidates use to target audiences and what kind of rhetoric they will use. You’ve got to be at least a little excited to see what kind of hashtags they come up with once the real campaigning starts.

What will be even more intriguing is seeing what each candidate’s choice of campaigning poison will be. Will they opt for the timeless and traditional tactic of positive and classic all-American-morale marketing to win over voters? Or will candidates favor the edgier, social media style aimed at capturing those who are more tech savvy?

Only time can tell what social media has in its cards for the future of the candidates’ political campaigns.

— Ashley Reid is a journalism sophomore. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.


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