Friday, November 30, 2012

Social Media and Freedom of Expression

"C. Limitation of Liability
From Twitter`s Terms of Service

Who thinks that a 140 character expression that shared with friends can cost you $50000? That is what almost happened to Amanda Bonnen. She shared a tweet on May 12, 2009, to her friends that said, “You should just come anyway. Who said sleeping in a moldy apartment was bad for you? Horizon Group Management thinks it's ok.” . Horizon has claimed the tweet was "published throughout the world" and has severely damaged its good name.Horizon sued her for at least $50000 ( Amanda had 20 followers at that time. Luckily, the tweet was deemed "too vague" by a Cook County judge-causing the defamation suit to be thrown out. The realty group's lawyer told they are now discussing their legal options. ( As a note, twitter deleted her account without waiting the result of the legal proceeding.

On the twitter side, there are the terms of service rules usually were not read by the users. As seen top of the column that quoted from twitters terms of use twitter declares it has nearly no responsibility in terms of this kind of issues especially related to legal conflicts.( It is not only twitter, the other social media networks` "terms of service" includes these kind of expressions.

This proceeding is not the only one of its kind. There are many examples in several countries and from different social networks like You tube and Facebook. We have to ask what is the borders of freedom of expression and infringement of privacy or insult juristically. Also it has to be asked in reality the social networks innocent totally.

Evidently, there are no differences between cyber-world and the real world in terms of legal responsibility but somehow people tend to act devil-may-care attitude. It is psychological from my standpoint. It resembles the attitude to use credit card instead cash. People use credit cards more carelessly. Also people cares and differentiates what and how they speak in friend and formal areas. They announce their expressions careful. Social media is not only a circle of friends but also a publicly "medium". Under this terms the "140 characters" might return to criminal offense.

Be careful!!!

Why Videos Matter for Campaign2.0: Taaleem Foundation on YouTube

In the final group project, our group will create a social media campaign plan for Taaleem Foundation (TF), a Pakistani NGO promoting education equality in under privileged areas in the country, especially Balochistan.
We believe that our campaign plan should answer to the challenges TF faces right now, so we talked with Mr. Abdul Basit Khawaja, General Manager of the organization before drawing up the plan. According to him, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are the major social media that TF works on at present. So I searched TF’s activities on YouTube. The findings are as followed:

TF joined YouTube quite late and is inactive on the site. The “TaaleemFoundation” account was established on September 10, 2011 and has only uploaded one video in March 2012. 
Video1  Balochistan Has Got Talent: Sab Akele Jayein Gey by Jan Mohammad, Mar. 21, 2012

According to its description, the video is the first episode of a series of “Balochistan Has Got Talent”. However, the account remains quiet after April 18, 2012.
In comparison, the account of one of the foundation’s schools contributes more on the website. Created on March 21, 2012, the “TaaleemFoundationSui” account has posted 16 videos before its latest activity in August. Most of the videos are about important events in the school and students' extracurricular activities. However, the contents do not have a clear theme and do not talk about the education problem in the area, which is the target of TF. The “TaaleemFoundationSui” account is also the first and the only YouTube account that the nine TF schools have.
Individual accounts have also uploaded many videos related to TF on YouTube. The problem of videos posted by both official and personal accounts is that most of them were made with personal camcorders and the quality is relatively poor.
Neither TF nor its branch schools have launched any video campaign on YouTube yet. The only formal campaign video, aiming to encourage public donations, was posted by TF’s working partner, Pedal for Peace, and was “liked” by the TF account. However, the influence of the video seems poor since it only got 698 views and no comments since uploaded on Dec. 22, 2011.
Video2 Education Revolution in Balochistan - Taaleem Foundation & Pedal for Peace, Dec. 22, 2011

One problem of TF’s current social media strategy is that different social media tools are disconnected with each other. For example, there are some videos only posted on YouTube and other can only be found on the Facebook page. The name of the foundation on YouTube is also confusing. There is also a video named “Taieem Foundation Nobel Job” on the site, talking about work of Taleem Foundation. In our campaign plan, we want to make the account of Taaleem Foundation more distinguished from others.
In social media campaign, videos matter in the following ways: first, they can more easily build emotional connections between viewers and the issues. People vote for the candidate who elicits the right feelings, not the one presenting the best argument. (Westen 2007:125) Compared with tweets and articles, the contents of videos are more emotional and visual. They can better influence and persuade the mass, which will benefit campaigns.
Second, videos can overcome the language barriers between different countries and peoples. In the TF case, one of their campaign goals is to promote foreign donations. Then the language becomes a major problem in terms of communication and advocacy. But the video can be self-evident. For example, the videos can show how children learn Pakistani songs in the schools and the image is strong enough to evoke the public awareness and sympathy, (though the English subtitles and descriptions are still needed).
Third, videos meet business interests, because people will stay longer on video sites and that will be the companies’ opportunities to send more advertisements.
Today, words are still dominant in social media strategy for many reasons. One is technical problems with videos. For instance, the download and upload of videos on YouTube are not as easy as dealing with tweets. Also, unlike articles, the internet speed may not allow people to watch videos quickly and grasp the basic idea by a few clicks. However, these problems can be solved as the information technology advance in the future.

How did people over the world become crazy about "Gangnam Style"

None of Korean people could imagine that PSY’s “Gangnam Style” surpassed Justin Bieber’s “Baby” as the most viewed video on YouTube. When released, the song was just one of his many songs which were popular only in Korea. Also, he did not try to promote the song overseas. But now, unlike other his songs, many people over the world listen to the song and imitate his dance. What happened to him and his song?

The style of the song is similar to those of other his songs. His music dances us off our feet and moves us to enthusiasm. PSY is totally different from standard K-pop idols which are young and good-looking and sing melodious R&B and romantic ballads. He focuses on giving us great pleasure by singing songs and is not obsessed about looking pretty.

So, how could only “Gangnam Style” go beyond Korea? It is the power of YouTube to make him become a world-famous singer. His music video was released on YouTube at no extra cost and could be watched by people over the world, which led to popularity throughout the world although he did not try to tap into overseas markets. Therefore, his popularity shows that Youtube, a kind of social media, provides opportunities for people to communicate with each other, regardless of time, place and cost. Also, you can know and that social media have a strong influence on sharing information and forming a popular culture on a global scale.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Debriefing Romney's Social Media Machine: A Lesson for Republicans from 1992 Relearned

 In the weeks following the end of the Presidential campaign I searched for insight into the strengths and failures of the Romney’s social media campaign similar to the Obama campaign debriefing provided the class by Amanda Grant. I found interesting insight in an Op-ed in Maybe the author, Mark Fidelman,  a regular contributor at and author of Socialized: How the Most Successful Businesses Harness the Power of Social is looking for a consulting gig in 2016, but it made me think of  George H.W. Bush 1992 faux pas.  
I remember the examination of the senior Bush’s loss to Clinton in 1992, with much emphasis on his lack of consideration for the youth and technology. At the time, MTV was still relevant and promoted the Rock the Vote campaign, which Bill Clinton took advantage of with “town hall” style forums on MTV. This set Clinton apart from Bush. Many of my generation looked to MTV for political news identified with Clinton, who was also taking advantage of opportunities to appear on The Tonight Show and Arsenio Hall. Bush Sr., on the other hand, was amazed by the “cutting-edge technology” of a grocery store scanner.

But, I do not want to trash the senior President Bush. His HBO documentary is quite moving and he has quietly slipped into a non-political life. However, I provide the previous flashback to my youth as a reminder that Bush Sr. taught the Republicans an important lesson in understanding the social world of you constituents.  
From what I know and have read, I agree with Fidelman that the Romney campaign was cognizant of the lesson and was just as equipped technologically to analyze and mobilize the base to victory. It just failed to do so. As unpopular as it sounds in a University setting, in a blue state – Romney’s message did resonate with many voters in the United States, but the campaign’s social media failed to:

Employ Marketing Influence
Where Obama used many celebrities to amplify his message, Romney had Clint. And who was Clint talking to? A chair.

Brand Romney’s Own Image
If Romney had been a new game console, the Republican party would have sent him out to influential bloggers to try out. The bloggers would have played with Romney for days until they could decide if they liked him, without interference. Romney never was truly tested by the on-line influencers. He didn’t let them see the real him, and as a result his identify was shaped by the traditional media and the Obama campaign.

Mobile Ground Game
With the prevalence of smart phones it seems unforgiveable to not coordinate volunteers in the days and weeks leading up to the election. Why wait until 3pm (Project Orca) to find out which Republicans did not vote in the important districts, send people to their door in the days and weeks before.

Reward Volunteers
Rather than offering a chance to have lunch with the candidate, Romney’s campaign might have benefited better by saving that for those volunteers who knocked on the most doors, logged the most hours on the phone and who were the greatest influence on-line. Macy’s gives gift cards and coupons to its most loyal shoppers, why shouldn’t the candidates?

It seems that if the Romney campaign failed to utilize the information it had collected to understand the social context of the campaign. Had they done that, alongside using with online business and marketing strategies, they might have carried the momentum of the first debate into a win.



Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Social media vs. Sandy

What had a more immediate and vital influence on the 2012 presidential election result: social media or Sandy? The result of the election was affected by many factors such as online political activities, Sandy, unemployment rates, and Obama health care. Can we measure the effects of each factor on the election? I think that it may be difficult to measure the effects of the factors including social media for two main reasons.

First, it is not possible to calculate the contribution degree of each factor. For instance, total votes for President Obama are composed of existing votes for the Democrat and new votes transferred by campaign. In order to calculate the contribution of social media to the election, we have to decide how many new votes were transferred from votes for Mitt Romney or swing votes only by social media. However, what is the way to know it? How can we identify the source of votes? And some of new votes were made by social media and Sandy together.

Second, it is not easy to measure and quantify the outcome of each factor. For example, we can calculate the outputs of social media campaign such as the number of views, likes and retweets. But, how can we calculate the outcomes like change in voter support caused by the outcomes? Therefore, we just guess which factor had serious effect on the result based on the outputs of some activities.

So, who would dare to say that social media won or lost?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Infographics: Pictures Worth More Than 140 Characters

As I followed this election on twitter and other social media platforms (facebook, tumblr and pinterest) I noticed more and more infographics being used.  An infographic, according to wikipedia, is a graphic visual representation of informaiton, data or knowledge intended to present complex information quickly and clearly.  For the purpose of the 2012 election this means the candidates have an opportunity to display a large amount of information in a visually appealing way to potential voters.  Twitter limits the amount of characters per tweet to 140, meaning it can be difficult for campaigs or candidates to address complex issues or to adequately compare and contrast their own views with the opposition.  The infographic changes this, allowing the tweet to direct the reader to a link where a graphic pops up and displays all the relevant information.

I am a visual learner, I thrive in an environment where there are charts and graphs available for me to digest data through.  Infographics helped me become a more informed voter both before and after the election.  Throughout the debates and the months leading up to the election I noticed both parties utilizing infographics to engage their constituencies.  Whether it be to distribute more information in one tweet than the 140 characters would allow or to have people on facebook engage with the material (likes and shares for a particularly contentious topic).  Here is a great article on the most popular infographics  After the election I began looking at different electoral college maps and noticed the one above, it shows the states distorted by number of electoral votes.  It proved to me that while area wise the republicans won more states, the population centers went mostly to the democrats.

twitter best practices maximizing your tweets infographicIn moving beyond the election, I started to look for infographics to help with my social media strategy for myself.  The infographic to the left provided me with insight on when I should tweet, how to increase my engagement level and even how many characters I should include to maximize my influence.  In a very short amount of time I was able to digest the information and find what I needed to alter how I use my twitter.

My question for the future is how will this change the political landscape and the landscape of the social media?  I anticipate infographics gaining traction into the next election, instead of seeing pamphlets distributed or having paragraphs summarizing the positions of a candidate I suspect infographics will be used.  It will be interested to see specifically how this impacts microblogging sites like twitter because they are designed to be limited in their scope.  I'm wondering if the influence of twitter will be diminished with the rise of infographics because it will entail people looking for information beyond the text of the tweet or if it will increase twitter's influence for just that reason: more information will be available in less time and with less text.  I guess only time will tell.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Novice vs Twitter—Round 1: Understanding paradoxes in SM

I was never into Social Media (SM), nor have I ever been well-versed with its latest tools and trends. But roughly since the time I’d graduated from college, it seemed to infiltrate every aspect of my online experience, and seemingly increasing in its offline presence as well—popping up ever so often in my conversations with friends and business associates alike. Although I was never motivated enough to actually set up a Twitter account and “engage”, increasingly I realized it was not something to be ignored.

That’s why it is probably more apt to describe my “journey with Twitter” as a wrestling match between the Novice (yours truly) and Twitter, roughly occurring in three phases or rounds where each face-off builds on the other, yet there’s no real saying who would ultimately “prevail”. The question was, would I master the use of Twitter, or would it overcome me altogether?
Thus, I attempt to account for my experience in three installments, the first of which I’ve undergone some introspection to identify some paradoxes in Twitter use, which probably shed light on the reasons for my mixed feelings towards Twitter.

1.       Creating my profile: public or private?
When creating my Twitter profile, the preeminent question arises: to make information public or private? Am I interested in exploiting the chance of having a public audience in Twitterverse, or are there real security concerns about privacy and the likes to be wary of? Choosing the former seems wise if not to defeat the purpose of using Twitter in the first place, but having public settings inevitably garners unintended scrutiny, spam or unauthorized use of personal information.

2.       Inertia versus Information
Even after getting past the first task of creating my profile, I face the tumultuous task of actual activity—(a) searching for/following various interest groups, personalities and/or organizations, and (b) tweeting. For someone like myself, who does not have ideas and off-the-cuff statements occurring spontaneously, it takes significant effort to accomplish tasks for efficient use of Twitter. It doesn’t really help that I do not have much faith in the efficacy of Twitter as a networking tool to begin with.
3.       For real or for show?
Many people are of the view that activity on Twitter is really a performance more than anything else. It’s all too obnoxious in believing that the rest of the world would be interested to know that I’ve just had breakfast at the neighborhood diner or have just been relieved of my last assignment for the semester. Yet, for very legitimate and/or professional reasons, it pays to invest effort in ensuring a presentable, comprehensive description of self is provided in the Twitter profile, because you never know how and when, the HR department of a potential employer would be scrutinizing every word and activity on Twitter. We’re treading a fine line between opportunity and risk, propriety and freedom of speech.

From the above, I would consider Round 1 a draw—neither the Novice nor Twitter has gained sufficient leverage to sway influence in either direction. It would probably take more interaction before significant outcomes (if any) are observed.

The 2012 Campaign; Impressions and Lessons

         On September 12, 2012 I had to skip my social media class and head for a four days long Fulbright Gateway Orientation at Austin, Texas. As I boarded the plane at 6:00 am that morning, the CNN inside the plane was breaking the news regarding Ben Ghazi incident in Libya. In the next connecting flight, I learnt that Mitt Romney has come out and spoken against the response of Obama administration. I landed on the Republican heartland at noon and our airport shuttle guy turned out to be, Guess What? a devoted conservative. He was listening to a "radio station" that was acting as an (un)official Republican campaign channel. However uncalled for the Romney response to Ben Ghazi might be, it did resonate with them. In the end, the broadcaster failed to even mince his words when he said, "We need to take out Obama instead of him taking out our candidate". This was as much partisan as one can be. Nonetheless, it also gave some first hand information on how deeply devoted and motivated conservative base was. It seemed that Romney had his 47 percent and Obama had his 47 percent. Then the game was about that 6 percent who will and did count in the end.

       So "in comes the social media". I believe that this was the one area that Romney and the Republicans just couldn't match Obama team. Brad Fitch and his Congressional Management Foundation (CMF) had put up some data that actually reflected an edge for the Republican lawmakers but they didn't seem to match where it actually mattered the most, the Presidential Election. No matter how well they were doing on other fronts they were just losing in the social media battle. The lesson is simple for the Republicans, First, they had "liberal media" (call it mainstream media) against them, but now they have another, "Social Media". Until and unless they find out the mechanism to embrace and campaign effectively on the social media, they are bound to lose more Presidential and Senate races. The Radio Stations no longer deliver White House these days.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Social media in the public sector

       Characteristics of social media are quick information delivery, free expression of his or her thoughts, and the largest and most accessible form of mass media. Another important thing is that social media can be generous about some mistakes. For example, although the content of a posting proves to be wrong later, it does not matter because the tweet or the message is just his or her private opinion or it is a pound to a penny.

        However, what if a government official posts the wrong information on Twitter or Facebook unintentionally? Especially, what if it does great damage to many people? Maybe the official has to be responsible for the results caused by the misinformed tweet or message. This is the reason why many officials are unwilling to post information or messages related to their jobs on social media. Here are two ways for them to use social media as a useful tool for their works. First, officials should be cautioned that accuracy as well as speed is important to do with social media in the public sector. Before posting, they should verify the accuracy of information provided by them like they hold a press briefing. Although the process takes a great deal of time, it helps promote better use of social media by making many officials use the tools at ease. Second, it also may be good to form groups to exchange information on specific issues because they would feel freely to express their thoughts to limited policy customers before making new policies. Small mistakes are not really a problem at a stage of collecting various opinions.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Twitter and the 2012 election

The world's major political event of the year, the election of the U.S. president, has left a deep, perhaps even historic mark on the World Wide Web. First, it has become a real triumph for Twitter. In the numerous discussions that followed the victory of Barack Obama on the election, the role of social media in the campaign was stressed. According to some experts, Obama owed his presidency to the "army" of his followers.
This campaign has been called "the greatest event in the history of Twitter,". First, Twitter has never "collapsed" during all time of the vote. Microblog service during the day took up to 400,000 tweets per minute. However, he remained operational. Twitter's creative director, Doug Bowman, wrote about it: "Rest in peace, Fail Whale". This refers to the picture of a smiling whale, whom birds try vainly to take to the skies - Twitter logos. Users of twitter seen such an image, if it was not available.
Now, the management of the company hinted that this problem is in the past. During voting day elections gained more than 20 million tweets, and that is not counting retweets. Even journalists kept on the "Twitter" own votes statistic. Many voters wrote for whom they gave voice: according the latest statistics, such peoples were more than 20 percent of the total. Well, the winning message of Barack Obama "Four more years" and a photo of the president with the first lady was the most popular tweet of all time. This message was retweeted  nearly by 800,000 users.
Meanwhile, if Twitter has become a refuge of those who are interested in politics, Google, by contrast, at the last moment attracted the "darkest" category of citizens. In the final days before the vote, thousands of Americans opened the search engine to ask one question: "Who is running for the U.S. presidency?". And there was a real explosion of interest directly on the day before voting. This is surprising, but the statistics are relentless. Perhaps that was the reason why Romney has lost. His voters did not know that they need to vote for him.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Secret Rules: A Primer on Privilege, Oppression, and Social Media

I posted earlier in the semester about, a website that tracks the usage of homophobic and heterosexist content on Twitter. Since the election, similar websites and Tumblr accounts have gained notoriety for tracking racist responses to President Obama's reelection.

Most notably, has blossomed and won several online awards for best new tumblr account. The account tracks racist reactions to the 2012 election and then (somewhat controversially) includes contact information for the authors of the racist content so that tumblr followers can respond directly to the content. Similarly, created a geo-social map of racist tweet locations post-election--finding that Alabama and Mississippi had the greatest density of racist tweets (see map below).

Although the creation of anti-racist accounts are understandable due to the sheer volume and alarming violence
 in some election
 responses, they highlight a broader issue in the evolution of social media and social media campaigns.  Social media exists within a context of systemic privilege and oppression. As governmental and non-profit practitioners, we cannot understand social media presence and engineer meaningful public sector responses/campaigns without understanding the context that creates our social world. Oppression is the systematic (read: macro-level)  discrimination against a class of people and the simultaneous systematic privileging of another class of people (often defined in binary opposition to the oppressed class, i.e. men/women, blacks/whites). US society ignores privilege and oppression and, accordingly, so do public sector social media presence. Geo-social media campaigns offer an excellent example.

Women generally use social media more than men (here's one source but there are many with similar findings); however, men are twice as likely to use geo-social media platforms, such as FourSquare (HERE'S the Pew study).  Why the discrepancy? Oppression (and privilege).

Within a rape culture (created by sexism), the threat of sexual assault is a constant concern for women; accordingly, women are put at increased risk of abuse and assault through social media interactions that disclose their location or activities. Anti-violence against women advocates warn that men who assault women are able to stalk their victims through social media and warn survivors of abuse to closely monitor their activity online. As the Pew study demonstrates, women are much less likely to make public their location through FourSquare and Gowalla (read a good discussion of the gender disparity in geo-social media participation from The Economist here; "The Secret Sexism of Social Media").

But why does it matter? As the Economist journalist writes, social media users operate within a set of "secret rules" dictated by systemic privilege and oppression. Any public sector campaign that operates without acknowledging these secret rules will fail to gain citizen participation and may even work against the campaign's goals.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Election Night 2012

On Tuesday, November 6th, Maxwell students, faculty and friends came together in Strausser Commons to celebrate election night. The event was organized by our class, and so served as a highlight to a term filled with examinations on the efficacy of the social media campaigning tools used by the presidential candidates. Maxwell faculty and classmate Billy Klutz provided their perspectives on the significance of the state, local and federal elections in an atmosphere filled with food, games and cool prizes. Audience members live-tweeted to hashtag #electionsu and provided entertaining commentary about our speakers and the media coverage of election results.
The emcees of the night, Emily Rudduck and Andrew Macquaid, fostered a fun environment through their lively banter and trips into the crowd to get audience perspectives on election issues. Additionally, the night provided a great way for students and faculty to share the feelings of excitement and anticipation that seem to always accompany an election night.

I enjoyed election night because it allowed me to examine my own feelings toward the presidential elections. I spoke with people whose political views differed from my own, and had the chance to (try) to explain the electoral process to friends who had never seen an American presidential election. Plus, I enjoy any chance to see the Maxwell community members in one space, talking about elections and not CLASSES for once! I would say the night was a great success.


To be in a new culture imply for the foreigners like me, an opportunity to get involved in that culture’s practices and traditions--to experience the elections is one of my best ways to understand  democracy in the USA. The most different observations that I noted are: the electoral system, the various approaches taken by each state and the transparency in the whole system which helps to guarantee trust.

Source: CBSN

First of all, the electoral system is methodically constructed. The 538 electoral votes have to be divided among the 50 states and District of Columbia. Each state has one elector for each of their members in the Congress (one for each legislator of the Representatives Chamber) and one for each senator (each state has two). One candidate needs half plus one of the electoral [1]votes, which means 270 votes to be the president. Presidents are elected by electoral votes, but these are normally cast by the electors in each state for the candidate who wins the most popular votes in the state. In this election Obama received 332 votes and Romney 206.

The 50 states in the USA, represent different attitudes and approaches. In the same way approximately 54% of the population voted in this election; according to Curtis Gans, Director of the Non-Partisan Center for the Study of the American Electorate, this year 90 million Americans who could vote didn’t. The reasons are different; political behavior is not solely the product of psychological drives, socialization, or organizational norms. Rather individuals have goals they try to achieve, acting as rationally as their knowledge, resources, and the situation permit. In 24 states Romney won, and in 26 plus he District of Columbia, Obama won.

Finally, the transparency in the whole process permits us to have an internet cast ballet. And, something really surprising, 25 million voters adopt the advance vote by mail and internet, including Obama. All of these practices help inform the media regarding the results, and help people to believe in the system.

During the night of the elections Professor Ines Mergel organized a dynamic and interactive event to share a variety of perspectives. The different points of view expressed by the speakers were useful to understand how American democracy operates. The emotions that come with the results, the predictions about the leanings in different states, and the final strategies from the candidates combined to make the 2012 Elections not only an academic but, also, a social event.

[1] Cummings, Jr. Milton C, et al.  Democracy Under Pressure, An Introduction to the American Political System, 2001.