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Social Advocacy & Politics

February 08, 2016
It is the Monday before the 2016 New Hampshire primary as I write this and the last opinion polls came out of the field yesterday. But the voting starts tomorrow (today, by the time you read this). So how accurate can Sunday’s poll be for predicting Tuesday’s vote? Possibly it will predict well, but things can change. Aside from some last minute SNAFU or attention-grabbing event, there is a sizable chunk of undecided or softly committed votes out there. So as the day unfolds at the polls, keep an eye on Google Trends, Facebook activity and Twitter activity for the candidates for any shifts in support.
January 05, 2016
Twitter’s clarification of its rules regarding the posting of threats and promotion of violence raises (again) two key questions regarding how we evaluate and respond to social media posts about the use of violence to pursue extremist goals. How do we differentiate between people talking about violent extremism and people promoting it? Is it better to ban promoters of violent extremism or monitor them for intelligence gathering? In the wake of Donald Trump suggesting that we should shut down parts of the Internet and our efforts to understand the San Bernardino attack, authorities and the public are looking to social media to try to make sense of its relationship to violent extremism.
December 08, 2015
You might think that we are so deep into the social media age that every advocacy organization, policy think tank, news media outlet, political campaign, university, association, charity and foundation already fully embraces social media and optimizes their use of it across their organization. This is not true. While some organizations have developed a full-scale, enterprise level social media program that leverages all of their assets and the available tools, many more have created some portion of such a program and some are still dragging their feet to get such a program off the ground. Regardless of how far your organization has gone in this direction, you can still take it to the next level.
November 24, 2015
Byrony Gordon of the Telegraph wrote in frustration this week about how social media is turning us into idiots. She chronicles several tweets and trends across social media in the aftermath of the attacks on Paris as evidence that, “…social media hasn’t just turned people stupid - it has also turned whole organizations into unthinking idiots whose knee jerk reaction in such situations is not to uncover the truth but get hits.” Gordon’s proclamation flies directly in the face of James Surowiecki’s notion of the scientifically-based “wisdom of crowds.”
November 17, 2015
Facebook, Twitter and Google+ have all added or turned on features in the wake of the Paris attacks this past Friday, November 13. These features incorporate many of the behavioral uses of these platforms into their code. For example, Facebook turned on its “Safety Check” feature, where people can mark on their profile that they are ok instead of just posting something to your wall.
November 10, 2015
One of the biggest criticisms of the current presidential election campaigns is that the candidates’ ability to entertain trumps their command and discussion of the issues. As this story goes, image appears to matter more than the ability to lead the “free world.” That is what is being said, but is it really true? Have presidential elections degenerated into White House Idol? Are we in danger of nominating Sanjaya f or President?
October 27, 2015
The language people use to talk about an issue tells a lot about their views on that issue. We never hear a pro-life person talk about how they are anti-choice, nor a pro-choice person call themselves anti-life. Similarly, we know that people who use the #GlobalWarming hashtag are more likely to be climate skeptics and deniers than people who use #ClimateChange in their tweets. These observations made me wonder if we can learn thing about people’s views based on whether they use candidates’ first name only, last name or full name.
October 13, 2015
For many years I have been pushing my colleagues to more fully integrate social media into their advocacy campaigns. While many were using social media to raise awareness about their issues and mobilize activists to take action (with both direct social media appeals and peer-to-peer appeals to send emails to Congress), none were using social media itself to deliver the messages to lawmakers.
September 29, 2015
The search for the Grail has consumed many a person over the past to thousand years, both fictional and real, so much so that “searching for the Grail” has become a meme more universal than even naming every American political scandal “-gate.” What makes the search for the Grail such a powerful meme is its combination of being a lofty goal that no one has yet achieved.
September 15, 2015
This week Governor Rick Perry suspended his campaign to seek the Republican nomination to be president. As a watcher of the candidate’s social media performance, I am not surprised. Especially in these early days, social media buzz about the candidates should be a good predictor of electability . As voters look at their choices, their willingness to engage with them in front of their friends is a good indicator of the candidates’ viability. As voters become less willing to engage with candidates, especially if their behavior suggests they are increasingly unwilling, candidates should and will consider dropping out of the race.

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