[Editor: This is a guest post by Kel McClanahan, the executive director of National Security Counselors and an adjunct professor at the George Washington University Law School, where he teaches Law of Secrecy. He can be found on Twitter at … Continue reading
Yesterday, David Copeland reported at ReadWriteWeb that the GOP tried to replicate the success of the White House’s #40dollars social media campaign on Twitter with their own #1000days effort. As the Chicago Tribune reported, the GOP campaign sought to highlight an inauspicious milestone for the U.S. Senate. 1,000 since it passed a budget. Democrats, who control the Senate, last approved a budget in 2009.
— Paul Ryan (@RepPaulRyan) January 24, 2012
Writes Copeland, “It’s clear that the digitial [sic] media campaigns had different goals, and #1000days was primarily aimed at emphasizing a point that was notably absent in President Obama’s State of the Union address last night. But if social media as it pertains to politics is truly about connecting with voters and constituents, score one for the Democrats.”
— The White House (@whitehouse) December 20, 2011
In this particular case, I mostly agree. The GOP’s efforts at gop.gov/sotu this year constituted an unprecedented use of the Web and social media by an opposition party to respond to a State of the Union, with smart integration of Twitter and YouTube. Citizens asked questions on the #GOPSOTU hashtag and Members of Congress responded using YouTube. As the Daily Dot reported, the #1000days hashtag has failed to spread beyond the Beltway. From what I’ve seen, the four reasons why #1000days hasn’t resonated in the same way break down into structural, tactical, and strategic issues:
1) Structural issue: Reach. Based upon the statistics I’ve seen, the @WhiteHouse has much more reach than than any single other “governance” account on Twitter. The GOP caucus in Congress, former Massachusetts governor@MittRomney and the @Heritage Foundation do have, in aggregate, an even or greater number of engaged followers. That said, the @BarackObama campaign account, which amplified the #40dollars conversation, has far greater reach, if lower engagement. Both metrics matter, in terms of the ability to involving and focusing more citizens in a given conversation around a #hashtag at a given time.
2) Tactical issue: Timing. The #1000days campaign was launched during the #SOTU, when the attention of politically engaged Americans was fractured between paying attention to the President’s speech itself, watching online (3m+ visits to wh.gov/sotu), reading the media organizations competing to report or fact check on the speech online, watching the TV networks and, of course, talking to one another.
3) Strategic issue: Adaptability. Agreeing upon and passing a budget is a fundamental, basic issue for the operations of any business, organization or government entity. Congress and the Obama administration have cobbled together a series of continuing resolutions and omnibus bills to fund itself over the past 3 years. While many Americans have to make and live by budgets in their personal lives and businesses, however, the #1000days campaign may be both too abstract and too constrained to a single message. The question about #40dollars, by contrast, asked citizens what it means to them, which is concrete, personal and invites creative answers.
4) Tactical issue: Engagement and Amplification. As Copeland reports, “Ahead of last night’s State of the Union address, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney and other Republicans started tweeting using the hashtag #1000days to accent the amount of time since Senate Democrats passed a federal budget.”
On Tuesday night, the top tweets for a search of the #1000days hashtag come from @MittRomney and Republican politicians. Neither Romney nor @SenJohnMcCain had retweeted any followers who have used the hashtag. @SpeakerBoehner has primarily retweeted the @GOPconference or other members of his caucus. The Heritage Foundation has only retweeted its own staff. That pattern is replicated throughout other participating accounts.
The @WhiteHouse, in contrast, continued its practice of resharing tweets from Twitter users who joined the conversation, sharing the voices of citizens with one another, not just other politicians. There’s a good lesson in this successful use to of Twitter that should extend well beyond citizen engagement and open government circles. One campaign amplified the messages of the representatives, the other channeled the voices of constituents responding to their elected issues on on a given issue back through the accounts coordinating the effort.
As I pointed out last year in an article on social media, politics and influence, it’s of note that the operators of the @WhiteHouse Twitter account now routinely natively retweet other accounts participating in #WHchats. While some of these Tweets will leave followers without context for the Tweet, the White House appears to have shifted its online strategy to one of engagement versus the lower risk style broadcasting that most politicians adopt online. To date, many of the president’s political opponents have not followed suit.
The challenges of these four issues look validated by the results to date: some 6,000 tweets per hour for #40dollars at the height of the campaign, as Ed O’Keefe wrote at the Washington Post. Keefe, on a talk on Monday, given by Kori Schulman, White House deputy director for digital strategy, “by 5 p.m., #40dollars was trending worldwide, Schulman said, and the hashtag was generating about 6,000 tweets per hour. At the height of the push, WhiteHouse.gov received about 5,000 responses per hour to the question.” In total, Schulman said the #40dollars campaign “generated 70,000 tweets, 46,000 submissions via the White House Web site, 10,000 related Facebook posts and contributions from 126,000 users.”
By way of contrast, according to the numbers in Topsy, the #1000days campaign has generated 3,862 tweets in the past week.
Agree? Disagree? What am I missing here.
Friday’s White House open government “status update” capped a historic week for open government in Washington. The Blue Button movement now has a website: BlueButtonData.org. Federal CTO Aneesh Chopra challenged the energy industry to collaborate in the design of a “green button” modeled after that Blue Button. White House director of digital Macon Phillips answered questions about “We the People” and the White House e-petitions. The Department of Transportation held a public consultation for the its Digital Transportation Exchange (DTE) open government initiative. President Obama signed the America Invents Act into law.
Progress and Setbacks
Quiet successes have been matched with setbacks to open government in Washington over the past three years, including two from this past week. Several journalism organizations have protested the U.S. federal government taking down doctor discipline and malpractice data from the Web. The Obama administration also faces an uncertain future for funding for its Office of Management and Budget’s open government initiatives after theU.S. Senate appropriations committee shortchanged the Electronic Government Fund by some $10 million dollars this week.
Global Open Government Partnership
While neither of those stories are good data points for the state of open government at the federal level, they are both part of a much larger narrative where some 40 countries (including the founding 8 members) have reportedly now submitted letters of intent to join this unprecedented international open government partnership.
Next Tuesday, I’ll be in New York on the same day that President Obama introduces the U.S. National Plan for open government as part of its commitment to the Open Government Partnership As John Wonderlich observed at the Sunlight Foundation on Friday, preparing for the U.S. National Plan and then delivering upon whatever is contains will be a “complex, ongoing effort that takes dedicated effort and attention,” adding to the progress towards a more transparent, participatory, collaborative or innovative government made to date.
In 2011, some of the most dynamic changes may be found the state and local level in the United States. After next week, the eyes of many more people will be open to the broader sweep of a global movement towards transparency. The world can watch the live streaming coverage of the “Power of Open” at Google’s YouTube channel from 9-10:30 AM and from 1:30-4:30 PM. Event details are available at OpenGovPartnership.org”>, including agenda, participants, presentations and other materials. I’m looking forward to telling that story using Twitter, Flickr, Tumblr and next Tuesday, where I’ll be liveblogging at the O’Reilly Radar all day. techPresident’s associate editor, Nick Judd, will be tweeting and liveblogging. Follow the #OGP hashtag for the real-time conversation about the Open Government Partnership:
title: ‘What\’s happening with’,
subject: ‘The Open Government Partnership’,
If you watched today’s hearing in the United States Senate on the role of social media in emergency management, “you witnessed a turning point in Gov 2.0,” says Brian Humphrey of the Los Angeles Fire Department. It’s certainly an important moment for the global community that has used these channels to communicate, coordinate and response to both recognize and share. CPAN’s video of the event is embedded below:
The excellent speakers provided key examples of use and statistics on the use of social media during crisis situations. Some of these incredible examples included:
- Direct communication between an eyewitness & Director Fugate during an emergency
- Pace of fundraising that the Red Cross has experienced through their text campaign
- The use of iPhone applications to share information about shelters
- Google’s Person Finder application supporting recent disasters which was active 90 minutes after Japan’s earthquake
- Skype use between communication between disaster victims and their families at home
- Use of Google Maps by soldiers for planning
Here’s a few other insights that stuck me, along with related coverage:
- “it’s not the technology tool, it’s the data behind it, and the people able to coordinate info”-Heather Blanchard (@poplifegirl)http://j.mp/fHhN2R
- “The best thing would be no “social media” people but that it’s an integral part of every position”- Wendy Harman (@wharman) http://oreil.ly/gsocRc
- “geotagged social media and data can provide real-time, on the ground situational information”-Heather Blanchard, http://oreil.ly/9VRguV
- “When we talk about information overload, what we’re really talking about is a lack of filters”-Heather Blanchard http://oreil.ly/gsocRc
- FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate (@CraigatFEMA) said under oath that he tweets himself. http://bit.ly/muJd9O
- Fugate also said that some of his peers now rate social media and mobile as important a revolution as radio
Ten years ago, staffers thought Al Gore was weird for texting Tipper. Fast forward a decade to late 2010, when any politician who doesn’t use check email on a smartphone or monitor what the media and voters are saying on social media platforms risks being judged out of step. As the midterm elections loom large next month, a large majority of the United States House and Senate are on Facebook. A smaller majority uses Twitter, YouTube and Flickr. While the effectiveness of that usage varies from candidate to candidate, the question of whether social media is a fad is largely settled.
One of the great unanswered questions of this election with respect to social media will be whether fan or follower numbers have any predictive value with respect to elections. Another will be whether more interactive candidates are more successful. What remains is to decide which strategies and tactics will make the difference in winning elections.
Earlier tonight, a panel of experts from media, campaigns and academia came together at George Washington University for “Going Viral: How Campaigns are Using Social Media,” an event jointly sponsored by Politico and Facebook. The panel featured:
- Ben Smith, Politico, moderator
- Mindy Finn, EngageDC
- Adam Conner, Facebook
- Sam Arora, Democrat for Delegate (MD)
- Matthew Hindman, George Washington University
- Philip de Vellis, Murphy Putnam Media
What was the high level take away? You can judge yourself: Video of the panel on political campaigns and social media is available at CSPAN and embedded below:
Politico’s own Meredith Shiner reported that “social media still has much to prove.” As Shiner noted, Finn told the audience that “Despite the increased attention paid by the media to political Facebook and Twitter accounts, campaigns today still spend less than 5 percent of their media expenditures online.” Determining whether that spend is consistent across all campaigns would be useful. That said, part of the allure of social media is that it requires an investment in time and expertise, not classical media buys. Sarah Palin, Scott Brown and Barack Obama could use Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to achieve awareness of their messages without huge campaign war chests. For underfunded campaigns, using those tools isn’t a choice. It’s a necessity.
Drawing from those take aways, here are eight more lessons for social media and politics:
1) Politicians have to use social media themselves to realize its full potential. Most campaigns are on Facebook. As Facebook’s Adam Conner pointed out, however, what remains is for candidates to understand tech personally and use it. “When you put a communications manager or staffer in between 140 characters or a Facebook update,” he said, “it’s much less authentic.”
2) Social media is not going away. “It’s the place we all have to be,” said Smith. As citizens turn to the Internet for government data, information, e-services, not to mention news, media and government entities have to “fish where the fish are.”
3) Very few Congressional candidates are doing a good job with these tools. At least, that was Professor Matthew Hindman’s take at the event. Judging from the feeds of many candidates, there’s clearly a learning curve with respect to style, conventions and technical acumen. Posting press releases to Twitter or Facebook does not realize their potential. Neither does treating the platforms the same way. For instance, Finn said that “tweeting from Facebook” is one of her pet peeves. Connor had seen enough “double third person posting” by staff to find it annoying. Voters are likely no different.
4) Social media enables candidates to build the intensity of support. While tweets and updates may not sway independents in of themselves, building strong online communities of supporters can translate into electoral success.
5) Friend power is important. Online, people are increasingly finding news stories from one other on Facebook, Twitter or other social networks, as opposed to through a search engine. That makes creating content with high “shareability” key, whether it’s embeddable videos, polling widgets or tweetable campaign slogans.
6. Leaving negative comments online builds trust, up to a point. In order for voters to see a page is a place for debate, you need to leave as many negative comments up as possible, said de Vellis, with the exception of abusive or pornographic content, which should be moderated. “Leave as much up as much as you can stomach,” said Finn. If the site is a place for supporters, “they’ll jump in and support you.” Conner suggested setting a policy up ahead of time, which a campaign can use to tramp down bad publicity. He said that it’s even more imporatnt to internal staff to have discussions ahead of time to get universal understanding of that policy.
7. This is the year of mobile. Again. As Pew Internet researcher Susannah Fox powerfully articulated in her presentation on the power of mobile this fall, 82 percent of American adults have a cell phone. Six in 10 American adults go online wirelessly with a laptop or mobile device. “Mobile was the final front in the access revolution,” she said. “It has erased the digital divide. A mobile device is the Internet for many people. Access isn’t the point anymore. It’s what people are doing with the access that matters.” As important as social media may become to the future of campaigns, reaching voters using email, text messages and calls to their cellphones – good old “Web 1.0” – is still paramount, along with a ground game to get them to the polls.
8. Candidates who use social media personally are more likely to use it on campaigns and ultimately in governance, says Adam Conner.
Once in office, the challenges of using technology for open government are even greater. Just ask the staffers at the Obama Administration and federal agencies, where open government initiatives in beta are moving from plans to implementation.
Telling the story of social media and politics
Befitting the occasion, below are selected tweets and images from the event, curated using Storify:
Today in Washington, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on updating the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), the landmark 1986 legislation that governs the protections citizens have when they communicate using the Internet or cellphones.
The statements of the witnesses before the Senate from the Commerce Department, Justice Department and witnesses are embedded in ths post. Below, find an exclusive interview with digital privacy and security researcher Chris Soghoian, who until recently was the resident geek at the Federal Trade Commission, and some context on “Digital Due Process,” the coalition of industry and privacy advocates advocating for an ECPA update.
“From the perspective of industry and definitely the public interest groups, people shouldn’t have to consider government access as one of the issues when they embrace cloud computing,” said Soghoian. “It should be about cost, about efficiency, about green energy, about reliability, about backups, but government access shouldn’t be an issue.”
While the tech blogosphere may be focused on Twitter, Facebook and inside baseball among the venture capitalists of Silicon Valley’s today, the matter before Congress should be earning more attention from citizens, media and technologists alike. Over at Forbes, Kashmir Hill made the case that industry will benefit from a clearer Electronic Communications Privacy Law. Take it one step further: updates to the ECPA have the potential to improve the privacy protections for every connected citizen, cloud computing provider or government employee. As she pointed out there:
One of the most egregious ECPA issues is how it treats the protection of email. “Why should email in someone’s inbox be treated different from something in someone’s sent folder?” asked Smith [Microsoft’s general counsel]. “Why is something unread in my junk folder subjected to greater privacy than something read in my inbox? Why does an email I sent in April have fewer privacy protections than one I sent in September?”
It’s important to be clear: Congress is unlikely to move on updating ECPA before the mid-term elections or in the lame duck session. That said, the hearing in the Senate today and the hearing on ECPA reform and the revolution in cloud computing in the House of Representatives tomorrow will inform any legislative action in the next Congress.
Chairman Patrick Leahy was clear in his opening statement today: American innovation has outpaced digital privacy laws.
When Congress enacted ECPA in 1986, we wanted to ensure that all Americans would enjoy the same privacy protections in their online communications as they did in the offline world, while ensuring that law enforcement had access to information needed to combat crime. The result was a careful, bipartisan law designed in part to protect electronic communications from real-time monitoring or interception by the Government, as emails were being delivered and from searches when these communications were stored electronically. At the time, ECPA was a cutting-edge piece of legislation. But, the many advances in communication technologies since have outpaced the privacy protections that Congress put in place.
Today, ECPA is a law that is often hampered by conflicting privacy standards that create uncertainty and confusion for law enforcement, the business community and American consumers.
For example, the content of a single e-mail could be subject to as many as four different levels of privacy protections under ECPA, depending on where it is stored, and when it is sent. There are also no clear standards under that law for how and under what circumstances the Government can access cell phone, or other mobile location information when investigating crime or national security matters. In addition, the growing popularity of social networking sites, such as Facebook and MySpace, present new privacy challenges that were not envisioned when ECPA was passed.
Simply put, the times have changed, and so ECPA must be updated to keep up with the times. Today’s hearing is an opportunity for this Committee to begin to examine this important issue.
“There does seem to be wide agreement that current ECPA standards are a muddled mess,” said Julian Sanchez, a research fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute, and contributing editor for Reason Magazine. “The fear about “uncertainty” expressed by Baker is ridiculous when you consider the scholarly consensus and the evident confusion in the courts trying to apply it. In reality, DOJ finds the ambiguity convenient, since they can jurisidiction-shop for magistrates whose interpretations they find congenial.”
Jim Dempsey of the Center for Democracy and Technology made the following statement on ECPA, promoting security and protecting privacy:
Justice Brandeis famously called privacy “the most comprehensive of rights, and the right most valued by a free people.” The Fourth Amendment embodies this right, requiring a judicial warrant for most searches or seizures, and Congress has enacted numerous laws affording privacy protections going beyond those mandated by the Constitution.
In setting rules for electronic surveillance, the courts and Congress have sought to balance two critical interests: the individual’s right to privacy and the government’s need to obtain evidence to prevent and investigate crimes, respond to emergency circumstances and protect the public. More recently, as technological developments have opened vast new opportunities for communication and commerce, Congress has added a third goal: providing a sound trust framework for communications technology and affording companies the clarity and certainty they need to invest in the development of innovative new services.
Today, it is clear that the balance among these three interests – the individual’s right to privacy, the government’s need for tools to conduct investigations, and the interest of service providers in clarity and customer trust – has been lost as powerful new technologies create and store more and more information about our daily lives. The protections provided by judicial precedent and statute have failed to keep pace, and important information is falling outside the traditional warrant standard.
The personal and economic benefits of technological development should not come at the price of privacy. In the absence of judicial protections, it is time for Congress to respond, as it has in the past, to afford adequate privacy protections, while preserving law enforcement tools and providing clarity to service providers.
The American Civil Liberties Union also had specific recommendations for Congress on ECPA reform. “The Electronic Communications Privacy Act was written in 1986 before the Web was even invented and is in desperate need of an upgrade,” said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “While Americans have embraced technology as an essential part of everyday life, they have not surrendered their fundamental right to privacy. Congress must ensure that our privacy laws reflect the technology Americans use every day.”
The testimony of the ACLU on ECPA reform is embedded below:
The written testimony of Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith is embedded below:
The written testimony of he Honorable James A. Baker, Esq., Associate Deputy Attorney General, United States Department of Justice, is embedded below:
The written testimony of the Honorable Cameron F. Kerry, Esq., General Counsel of the United States Department of Commerce is embedded below:
The written testimony of attorney Jamil Jaffer Testimony is below:
Digital Due Process
Earlier this year, I reported on the launch of DigitalDueProcess.org, a coalition pushing for an ECPA update for online privacy in cloud computing age. A powerful collection of organizations has been pushing for an update to ECPA. Members of the coalition include Google, Microsoft, AT&T, AOL, Intel, the ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The guidance from the coalition would enshrine principles for “digital due process,” online privacy and data protection in the age of cloud computing within an updated ECPA.
The coalition set up a website, DigitalDueProcess.org, containing its proposals for updating ECPA in the face of new cloud computing security and online privacy challenges. Google Public Policy released a video, embedded below, describing the concept of “digital due process,”
Panel on government transparency from D.C. in Washington with Clay Johnson of Sunlight Labs, Gray Brooks of the FCC, Riki Parikh from Senator Warner’s office, Andrew Noyes of Facebook, Gloria Huang of the Red Cross and Kathleen Fitzgerald of Scribd.