Posting Politics: Very few U.S. Facebookers Post “Political Beliefs”

6 04 2010

Mashable's infographic showing the demographic breakdown of Facebook and the United States. Graphic by social media consultant Muhammad Saleem.

Mashable, the social media guide, recently posted an infographic comparing the population and demographic breakdown of both Facebook and the United States.

Under the section “Political Beliefs” they showed an interesting separation between the two entities.

While Americans’ political beliefs are fairly evenly divided amongst “Liberal,” “Moderate” and “Conservative,” with a small portion of “Other,” Americans on Facebook overwhelmingly list their political beliefs as “Other or Undeclared.”

It would appear that approximately 65 per cent of Americans are not posting their political beliefs on Facebook (or they support a fringe element political belief).

I have to wonder if this is due in some part to the extreme nature of politics in the United States. Are people simply afraid to declare their true political leanings on a social media network?

After all, general etiquette says never discuss politics, religion or money over dinner. Perhaps people view Facebook as a sort of social media meal in which it would be viewed as bad manners to talk about such things.

I know I listed my political beliefs when filling out my Facebook profile, but I realize that’s not necessarily common for my age demographic. Perhaps the difference has to do with age: the majority of Facebook’s users are between the ages of 13 and 34; since younger generations are typically less likely to have political affiliations, maybe they’re less likely to post political beliefs on social media. 

Whatever the reason, it’s certainly interesting information. Personally, I’d be really interested to see a similar breakdown for Canadian political beliefs listed on Facebook.

What do you think:

Do you post your political beliefs on social media, why or why not?


Twestival Raising More Than Funds & Awareness: Ideas

31 03 2010

A screenshot of the Twestival motto, from

Last Thursday people in 175 cities in countries around the world gathered together to raise money for Concern Worldwide. They raised over $400,000 (at the time of posting), and it all started on Twitter.

Concern Worldwide is an organization that raises money for various causes. This year’s second annual Twestival event raised funds to provide an education to people who wouldn’t otherwise get one.

Last year, Twestival events raised $250,000 to provide clean water to 17,000 people.

With Twestival, Concern Worldwide is utilizing social media in some of the most effective ways done so far by charity organizations.

For example, Twestival allows people to help the cause in five different ways:

  1. They can attend, or even volunteer at, a Twestival event. Those are held in dozens of cities around the world, in venues so varied they range from schools to nightclubs.
  2. They can donate online using resources like PayPal. PayPal even agreed to waive fees for amounts donated to Concern Worldwide (up to $1 million) between March 12 and April 2.
  3. They can bid for items up for grabs on Twestival’s charity eBay auction. Many celebrities donated both items and experiences (such as behind the scenes tours). Concern Worldwide also sold Twestival t-shirts and books recapping last year’s event (with proceeds going to the water cause).
  4. They could listen to Twestival FM, a free online radio station. Certain artists donated tracks to be played by the station, many of which were available for free download. The station merely asked that if people liked what they were listening to, or download a track, that they also make a donation to the cause.
  5. The simplest method of all: they could tweet their support (using the #Twestival hashtag). Twestival is meant to be about more than merely fundraising, it’s about raising awareness about issues.

Mashable CEO Pete Cashmore argues that Twestival is creating a lasting impact for social media campaigns in three ways: it’s raising awareness, raising significant funds and it’s paving the way for future campaigns, such as the one used in the wake of the disaster in Haiti.

Have you ever gotten involved in an online campaign like Twestival?

Do you think campaigns like this are effective?

A screenshot of the Twestival logo, from

Top Three Political Uses of Facebook

31 03 2010

The Facebook logo. Image from Facebook.

Since Facebook began to achieve national and international popularity, everyone wants a piece of the social media giant, even politicians.

Many politicians and political organizations used to dealing with traditional media originally struggled with adapting to social media. However, the majority now seem to understand the subtle nuances of sites like Facebook.

Here are three of the best ways Facebook has been used for political purposes:


Local politicians are storming Facebook (and other popular social networking sites) in the hopes of better connecting with constituents. In many cases, it certainly seems to be working. Direct contact with the citizens they represent is giving local politicians, such as MPs or even mayors, better insight into public concerns and mindsets. This is especially useful for politicians who may not regularly appear in mainstream media such as newspapers or T.V. news because it creates an avenue of communication.


In 2006, Facebook automatically created profiles for the 1,600 gubernatorial (governor), senatorial and congressional candidates running for election. The profiles included basic information about the candidates, such as their party affiliation and which office they were running for. Facebook also included an American flag as the default profile picture of all the profiles. Candidates could then request login information from the site, free of charge, and customize their profiles. According to Northwestern University’s The Daily Northwestern, 400 candidates opted to utilize the Facebook presence and personalize their profiles.

Regular Facebook users were also given the option to list candidates they supported rather than “friending” them – this was of course before Facebook rolled out Fan Pages in November 2007, allowing members to “Become a Fan” of political candidates (as well as a host of other things).


In the 2008 U.S. presidential election, incumbent Barack Obama utilized Facebook as a core component of his aggressive social media campaign. He also used over 15 other popular social media sites, including, but not limited to, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and MySpace. Last July, Obama’s Facebook Page was the number one page on the site. It has since been overtaken by Michael Jackson (presumably since the star’s death reignited fans).

What do you think:

Have you seen an instance where Facebook was well-used for political puposes?

Tell me about it in the comments.

Twit-diots Threaten to Assassinate Obama on Social Media

23 03 2010

Angry Twitter Bird

Angry Twitter Bird from Aaron Riddle, Wedding and Portrait Photography blog.

Two twit-diots posted messages calling for the assassination of Barack Obama following the U.S. president’s groundbreaking healthcare legislation last night.

Username @Solly_Forrel posted more than one threatening tweet. He wrote:

“America, we survived the Assassinations and Lincoln & Kennedy. We’ll surely get over a bullet to Barack Obama’s head.” reports that he later added to his original tweet with:

“If I lived in DC. I’d shoot him myself.”

Another user, @THHEE_JAY, also had harsh words for the president.

“You Should be Assassinated!! @Barack Obama.”

Personally, I’m of the mind that to tweet or not to tweet is certainly not the question when your message is one of hatred, threats and menace.

It’s time people begin to realize that things they say on the Internet are taken seriously.

These two certainly are, as the secret service is investigating both of them, common protocol for any perceived threats against the president.

“We respect the right of free speech, but in such instances we have a right and an obligation to ask questions and determine intent,” said the secret service, according to

I wonder if these two think that because what they’re saying is just a tweet, or only their friends are following them, that what they say doesn’t matter.

In journalism school, we’ve certainly learned that publishing on the Internet – and posting a tweet is publishing – is every bit as serious as publishing in print. The things that people write online are just as susceptible to libel – or, as this case warrants, investigation – as anything you say in a newspaper or magazine. Just because the Internet seems to be this vast digital frontier, filled, as we know it is, with incorrect information, doesn’t mean that what you say doesn’t mean anything.

In this situation, I suppose it’s just as well that the two idiots posted their thoughts on social media, after all, if they did in fact pose a real threat, well, that’s certainly being investigated now.

But it serves as a warning, to politicians and average people alike, careful what you say online.

What do you think?

How careful are you when you post things online?

UN’s Social Media Envoy Using Net for Malaria Awareness

16 03 2010
Image of a mosquito

Certain types of mosquitoes carry the malaria parasite. Image courtesy of the UN's Malaria Progress website.

Twenty-four of the web’s top social media personalities made a commitment to malaria control yesterday. The United Nations has created a social media envoy in order to raise awareness about malaria.

Each member of the envoy has committed to one Twitter, Facebook or similar social media post raising awareness about malaria each month.

According to a press release put out by the UN’s Malaria Progress website, the group of social media envoys are:

“Chartered with inspiring and activating social media audiences throughout the year in support of malaria control. The Social Media Envoys are dedicated to utilizing their social profile to keep online and offline media audiences focused on the movement, milestones and resources required to achieve the Secretary-General’s goal of providing all endemic African countries with malaria control interventions by the end of 2010.”

I know many of these people are executives, famous–or social media famous at least–busy people, but seriously, only one post each month? These are people who have founded their own social media companies. These are people who tweet multiple times a day. Once a month really only commits them to 12 posts in a year. Even I could do that. (Sure I don’t have the followers they do, but still.)

The point is: what they’ve “committed” to hardly seems like much of a commitment. And, at one only post each month, many of their followers could easily miss the updates.
The “commitment” certainly seems more symbolic than anything else and I for one am disappointed that these people couldn’t “man up” (for lack of a better phrase) and do a little more. I think social media should be harnessed for awareness of issues, so this is certainly a start; however, more can easily be done online.

I think perhaps a post a week would be a little more useful (after all, I’m sure even if they stuck to facts alone, there would be enough interesting ones to fill 52 posts).

Carried by certain types of mosquitoes, malaria is responsible for more than a million deaths and anywhere from 350 to 500 million illnesses worldwide every year. It is not only preventable, but also treatable; however the people who need help the most are often those unable to procure it for themselves. Raising awareness, and funds, for malaria, could make a huge difference, especially in African countries plagued by the disease.

So why such a small contribution from envoy members to such an important cause?

Let me know what you think:

Is one tweet or Facebook post enough to help or do you think that members of the social media envoy should be doing more?

Venezuelan President Plans to take a Virtual Broom to the “Web”

15 03 2010

A boy with the Venezuelan flag painted on his face. Photo courtesy of Birmingham Respect blog.

Hugo Chávez is taking his previous war cries against social media one step further; the Venezuelan president is now calling for regulation of the Internet itself.

Comments were posted on Venezuelan web site Noticiero Digital on the weekend suggested Diosdado Cabello, a senior minister and close aide to the president, had been assassinated.

The site, popular with Chávez’s opponents, took down the comments only hours later, according to the Associated Press. Reuters reports Chávez saying the comments remained posted for two days.

Noticiero Digital has banned the users responsible from the site. However, Chávez is not appeased.

“The Internet cannot be something open where anything is said and done. Every country has to apply its own rules and norms,” Chávez said (as reported by Reuters).

“We have to act. We are going to ask the attorney general for help, because this is a crime. I have information that this page periodically publishes stories calling for a coup d’etat. That cannot be permitted.”

It seems that Venezuela under Chávez is moving ever-closer to the sort of Internet restrictions operated in countries like Iran, Cuba and China.

What I have to wonder though is this:

If every false piece of information published on the Internet were to result in regulation of the Internet, there would certainly be no World Wide Web left. If every news site on the web to ever make a mistake and publish online something that happened to be wrong were to be shut down, then I suppose print newspaper circulation would not be in such a decline.

That’s not to say that I think that journalists, for example, should publish now, fact check and correct later. I think that everything published online should strive for every bit of truthfulness that is the standard of print publications. That being said, everyone makes mistakes, and it can be especially difficult to moderate material posted to a site, especially when your policy is to avoid censorship.

Many critics suggest that Chávez’s harsh reaction is due to the amount of criticism he receives via the Internet. Since the website has made absolutely clear that their policy states users must be liable for comments they publish on the site, and has not only removed the offending comments, but also banned their authors, you would think Chávez could let it go. However, I think his behaviour may suggest he is merely using the incident as an excuse to unleash his plan to regulate the Internet.

I think that if the Internet was a fundamental human right, Chávez would certainly be halted in his tracks. However, since it isn’t, do you think he will be successful in his plans to regulate it?

Food, Water, Internet?

9 03 2010

Internet browser logos.

I remember when my mom and I first got the Internet when I was a kid. I must’ve been about 10. I remember spending hours and hours on our slow dial-up connection, holed up on the computer in the living room, playing on sites like Neopets (no mocking, it was cool when I was 10). I’d sit in front of that glowing little screen for hours, playing games, and later, searching out new information.

From then on, I’ve always had access to the Internet.

I can’t imagine what it would be like to grow up without such technology then to be thrust at it later in life, expected to understand every complicated, complex and confounding detail. Knowledge of computers, and of course, of the Internet, is arguably becoming a crucial part of our society. That’s probably why a number of countries are looking at making Internet access a fundamental right.

A few months ago, Finland became the first country to make it official. Broadband Internet access is now a legal right for the nation’s 5.2 million citizens.

BBC News recently did a poll on whether or not people think the Internet should be a fundamental human right. They surveyed 27,000 adults in 26 different countries, and found that almost four in every five people believe that the Internet should be a fundamental right.

“The right to communicate cannot be ignored,” Dr Hamadoun Toure, secretary-general of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), told BBC News.

“The Internet is the most powerful potential source of enlightenment ever created.”

Toure also told the BBC that he believes governments should “regard the internet as basic infrastructure – just like roads, waste and water.”

“We have entered the knowledge society and everyone must have access to participate,” he said.

A reader poll on Mashable suggests similar viewpoints. Over 80 per cent of over 2,000 respondents indicated yes, that they believe Internet should be a fundamental right, in one of three ways: “yes, it is an essential right all its own,” “yes, mainly because the free flow of information is necessary to preserve other liberties” and “yes, for another reason.”

Universal access to the Internet would certainly help level the playing field as far opportunities are concerned. The access to information, the potential to learn and grow, could be the same for everyone.

I think the Internet is about information, whether it’s sharing it, trading it or using it. It’s about connecting with fellow human beings, even if they’re hundreds or even thousands of kilometres away. It’s about telling the world what you know, and seeing what they make of it.

The Internet means never really being alone, and always being able to find an answer to your question. It’s about sharing the information that matters, so that injustices are dealt with and democracy can persevere. The Internet is freedom.

What do you think:

Should Internet access be a fundamental right?