Peace advocacy group organizes White House Facebook page takeover

At about 9 a.m. Monday morning, someone checking the official White House Facebook page would have noticed something peculiar. A single message began showing up on the fan page over and over again, at one point once every minute. Each time it came from a different user and included a small flame icon along with it.

“This week’s anniversary marks 8 years of war in Afghanistan, and I’m remembering those who have died,” the message states. “Bullets don’t win hearts and minds. We need a better plan for Afghanistan, end the war.”

The messages stem from a “friendly” takeover of the White House fan page launched by the peace advocacy group Peace Action West to mark the eight year anniversary of the war in Afghanistan. Boasting a membership of over 50,000, it advocates for a “smarter foreign policy” that includes putting more resources into economic development and humanitarian aid in the war-torn country.

white house fan page peace afghanistan

“It’s a vigil, and the reason we chose a vigil is because a lot of our members support Obama,” Communications Director Reva Patwardhan told me in a phone interview. “A lot of progressives support Obama, and we actually think that of all the people who could possibly be president he’s the most likely to do the right thing. But he’s going to need a lot of public support in order to push him in that direction, and the fact is that he’s actually considering an array of options for what he’s going to do in Afghanistan. The commander in Afghanistan, General [Stanley] McChrystal, has asked for 45,000 more troops. There’s a huge amount of pressure to give him that. We’re asking [Obama] not to give in to that pressure.”

The group created a Facebook Connect page allowing its supporters to streamline their efforts into one efficient system, though some of the people posting on the fan pages steer from the beaten path with their own custom messages. Patwardhan said they’ve been using their massive email list to promote the cause, but it since has taken off through word of mouth on both Facebook and Twitter, and several other organizations are pitching in their support.

The eighth anniversary is this Wednesday and she said their vigil will last at least until then, possibly longer.

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Pro-Polanski Facebook Vigilante Has Anti-Polanski Facebook Posts Blocked

polanski keliFile this under “People Who Think They Are Helping Roman Polanski Really Aren’t”: At least one pro-Polanski online activist has blocked at least one Facebook user critical of Polanski from posting anything to do with Polanski to her Facebook page. Bi-zarre.

Keli Goff, who last week wrote a piece for Mediaite critical of Polanski and his Hollywood supporters called “Why Doesn’t Middle America Trust Hollywood Liberals? Two Words: Roman Polanski,” had posted a similar piece at HuffPo and had posted it to her Facebook page last Wednesday. On Friday, she sent me a confused email asking me if I had tried posting Polanski articles to Facebook. She was trying to post the following and having no luck:

Chris Rock weighs in on Polanski. Hilarity ensues:

I tried posting it to my page and it worked fine. I tried posting another Polanski link to my page; it also worked. Keli, meanwhile, tried to post a news article reporting that California governor Arnold Schwarzennegger had refused to pardon Polanski — no dice.

She has since then been unable to post material about Polanski on her Facebook page — legitimate, non-abusive material — and when she tries, she gets the following message:

polanski keli

Keli has no idea who would have reported her to Facebook as abusive; she has received no communication on the matter from Facebook or anyone. In the interim, Keli tells me she has requested an answer from Facebook’s spokesperson Barry Schnitt but has received no response, and is also waiting to hear back from someone in their DC office after friends with contacts there reported her issue. I also tried posting a Polanski page to her wall, and it worked; however, she’s still unable to.

Could this be a fluke? Maybe — but doubtful, since it appears that Polanski-themed spamming is going around. Over at Patterico’s Pontifications, Patrick Frey has numerous posts detailing how he was spammed by an associate producer for the pro-Polanski film, Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired. Patterico had identified the associate producer, Michelle Sullivan, through an intricate trail of online breadcrumbs, and she admitted to having left numerous angry anonymous comments in support of Polanski on posts written by Patterico. Patterico also tied her to comments on Polanski-related articles at the Daily Beast.

So: We know that there is at least one, perhaps more pro-Polanski person or persons targeting people who are critical of the embattled director online. And, I guess, we also know that Facebook will suspend your posting privileges without contacting you. Oh, we also know this: Trying to block Facebook articles about Roman Polanski will probably really, really help his public image. Sheesh.

Ayone else out there have similar experiences with Polanski-related material? Let us know in the comments.

Power Grid Update: Rankings Shift When “Getting Sick” Is News

Picture 1It’s no secret that we’re obsessed with competition and we get our kicks from big movement on the Power Grid. Recently sickness has been responsible for much of the movement in the rankings, as Dr. Sanjay Gupta — who recently announced he had swine flu — jumped from #12 to #4 in the rankings among TV pundits, with his Google buzz peaking at #1. The third search result? “I went to Afghanistan and all I got was H1N1.”

In another case, the sickness was a financial malady responsible for the moving and the shaking, as New York Times reporter Andrew Ross Sorkin skyrocketed from the #37 Print/Online Reporter to #5 thanks to the forthcoming release of his verbosely titled book Too Big to Fail: The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System—and Themselves. The latest issue of Vanity Fair includes an excerpt from the work, as well as a Q&A, in addition to the buzz Sorkin has received from his other recent financial coverage in the Times of shamed businessman Guy Hands, a salacious take entitled “A Financier Peels Back the Curtain.” As a result, he’s setting Google ablaze.

Elsewhere, Lorne Michaels benefitted from SNL’s return (enjoy the classics here!), jumping from #4 to #2 among TV Executives, while TV reporter Ann Curry leaped nine spots, from #20 to #11 after a highly publicized interview with disputed Iranian President Ahmadinejad as well as likely gaining some followers after a public report about an emergency landing on her Twitter account. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg crept up the media mogul top 5, to the fourth slot, after announcing that the social networked topped 300 million users and is now profitable. Meanwhile, madness in Washington took the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank to #1 from #3 in the Print/Online Reporters category.

A handful of huge jumps included Armen Keteyian, from #50 to #12 among TV Reporters after an Emmy win for investigative journalism. Similarly, the start of the NFL season meanted a #43 to #13 jump for TV reporter Michael Smith, while the ever pleasant Ann Coulter elbowed her way to the top’s outer edges — from #20 to #8 when it comes to TV Pundits.

Check out the entire set of rankings here.


The Martha Stewart Tech Show

Untitled1Martha Stewart opened up her studio audience seats to live-bloggers yesterday in an impressive release of control for the notoriously cautious television talk show circuit. Where audience members are normally forced off the grid during tapings, Martha’s show staff asked us all to bring and use our laptops, smartphones and cameras. As Martha herself posted on Twitter, Facebook and her blog, the show was to be “all about social networking.” The result? Somewhat disappointing and not very social, but a smart move nonetheless.

Informed and prepared, Martha Stewart led a series of fast-paced interviews with a handful of social networking heavyweights including Twitter co-founder Biz Stone and Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes. Everybody including Martha seemed excited by the concept of live audience involvement but it was hard not to feel like we were odd visitors in an experiment they weren’t quite ready to handle.

SLIDESHOW: Behind the scenes at the Marth Stewart Tech Show

With 125 users trying to access the wireless network – 126 including Martha – it was slow or inaccessible to many of us. When we were all asked to disconnect so Martha could get a signal, live-blogging activities were quickly downgraded to the occasional smartphone tweet. In all, the experiment generated 452 searchable tweets and retweets using the announced hashtag #theTECHshow and another 99 using the more intuitive identifier #Martha. These are underwhelming numbers from a tech-equipped audience of social influencers like Julia Roy, who has 31,392 followers on Twitter, Idolator editor Maura Johnston and viral-web monitor Urlesque, but it’s all good. The Martha show gets a little extra shot of publicity, and the blogosphere gets some extra attention. And both are excited to be recognized by the other. By allowing us to take and post behind-the-scenes photos we all feel more involved and closer to the show. This was a smart move with zero risk, all reward despite the execution troubles.

The deeper question is why Martha’s advisors – and why the television industry in general – doesn’t integrate social media more frequently into the shows. Allowing people to stay connected and share their experiences directly from their audience seats shouldn’t be a one-time experiment. Successful television shows have always known the importance of social connections and word-of-mouth, yet somehow they’re almost all viewing the internet as a threat rather than a powerful opportunity.

What could the Martha show have done differently yesterday? Rather than treat social networking as a separate technology discussion, they could have prepped the tech guests to discuss how their products and sites enhance the domestic arts. Martha probably wouldn’t bring the head of GE Appliances on the show just to discuss the latest cooktop elements, and she wouldn’t go in-depth on the features of a glue gun without tying it into why her viewers should care. Similarly, Biz Stone should not have mentioned Twitter’s retweet functionality without tying it into how it can benefit the audience. Chris Hughes could have spent less time on Facebook’s privacy options, more time bringing it home to why Martha’s demographic cares. Yahoo’s Heather Cabot added more of a Martha vibe during her photo editing segment but for the most part the links between technology features and how the home viewer can benefit, specifically around the domestic arts, were rarely drawn.

Martha and her staff are to be applauded for their efforts but when the show airs tomorrow, Friday October 2nd, viewers at home will likely wonder what it all has to do with them.

Andrew Cherwenka is VP Biz Dev at, an interactive marketing agency with offices in New York and Toronto. Find him on Twitter at @cherwenka.

Photo captions by Joe Coscarelli

Local Politicians Use Social Media to Connect with Voters

When television cameras panned across the room full of senators and representatives during the recent presidential address to a joint session of Congress, the audience at home caught a glimpse of several political leaders tweeting away on their BlackBerry phones.

At the national level, social media has been embraced by many politicians. Even the White House has a Twitter account and Flickr feed. But is the same true of local campaigns and politicians? How much are Facebook, MySpace and Twitter being integrated into the communication strategies of local political campaigns?


"We look at it as a way to get a message to our constituents and in a campaign to potential voters," said Mesa, Arizona mayor Scott Smith in a phone interview.

Smith, who was elected to office in May 2008, said his use of social media is a critical component in engaging his constituents. Mesa is a city of more than 463,000 people, yet this community, located roughly 20 miles from Phoenix, is without its own newspaper or local TV news outlet.

"It's not just the rise in social media, it's the change in more traditional sources [of information]," Smith said. "And for a city our size that shares newspapers with an adjoining city and doesn't have access to more formal and traditional forms of media, social networking has become essential because in many ways it's not only the best way of getting things out, it's the only way to get your message out."

The decline of local journalism

Smith's community isn't the only smaller city or town to find itself suffering form a lack of local press. While the New York City mayoral election attracts interest from the New York Times, elsewhere the media landscape has changed drastically, thanks to the shuttering of smaller newspapers that were traditionally the source of local political coverage. In some places, social media is being used to try and replace some of what has been lost in terms of professional reporting.

"As money becomes tighter as traditional media outlets become either non-existent or more and more restrictive to how much they cover and the scope of their coverage, I think social media is going to play an increasingly important role in local campaigns because they are all we have," Smith said.

For Boulder, Colo., city council candidate KC Becker, social media technologies like Facebook have become an essential part of her campaign. However, Becker does admit to having some trouble figuring out how to use Twitter.


"I didn't get on Twitter until I decided to run and honestly it has been the technology that still eludes me a little bit," Becker said in a phone interview. "It should be a good outlet for a political candidate, but I just find it a little bit overwhelming and a little bit harder to use."

Some mayors, like Cory Booker of Newark, N.J., have set the bar high with their use of Twitter. Booker has more than 757,000 followers and has engaged his followers by tweeting everything from local policy initiatives to old proverbs.

Lansing, Mich., mayor Virg Bernero, who is running for re-election in November, uses his tweets to promote appearances on Fox and CNN. Bernero campaign manager Patrick McAlvey says occasionally the tweets or videos have gone viral and have been reposted in a number of avenues outside of the Lansing constituency.

"To some extent some things have caught more attention or have been retweeted more often," McAlvey said in a phone interview. "Some of it has to do with the size of our market, but some videos have gone viral."

A Cultural Shift in the Media Landscape

The 2008 presidential campaign was a watershed moment for new media technology. West Hartford, Conn., mayor Scott Slifka says years ago during his previous mayoral campaigns, the only people using Facebook were almost exclusively in their 20s. But Slifka, who is in the heat of his own re-election bid, says there has been a quantum leap in the number of people of all ages logging in to social media. This has had an impact on how political messages spread.

"The thing that strikes me is how rapid new media technologies are," Slifka said. "In a smaller community like ours [about 61,000 people] where the government may not be one that is are used to moving at a slightly slower pace. It was really the pace of the printed newspaper."

Slifka said that if there were three or four newspaper stories about local politics in one week, it was significant. Now, news and rumors spread instantly through the blogosphere and are shared on social networks. Local politicians are not just dealing with a new story in the paper -- they are dealing with the fallout from it around the clock.

"I think most local governments aren't really equipped for that kind of rapid response," Slifka said.

Perhaps most significant to the evolving shift in local political communication is the sense that social media is starting to fill the void left by downsized news staffs or the complete absence of journalists in smaller communities.


"A newspaper article gives you such a shallow understanding of the events that occurred at City Hall," said recently elected Tuscaloosa, Ala., mayor Walter Maddox. "A television story is 30 seconds if you are lucky. Through our website, through Facebook, through MySpace and Twitter, we can provide a more detailed and compelling message to the voters of why we are making a certain policy decision.

Maddox said it is important not to post "bureaucratic mumbo jumbo" online because it loses local interest. He said the potential communication capabilities of social media are causing his new government to revamp its online presence.

"It's literally a town hall opportunity to communicate with people," he said. "And they get an opportunity to communicate back with you. That's why it's important and that's why it's going to continue being important."

Steven Davy is a freelance journalist, and freelance radio reporter/producer. He regularly covers the defense industry and security related issues for UPI. Additionally he hosts a current affairs news magazine radio show called the Nonchalant Café Hour which broadcasts live in Kalamazoo, Mich. Steven is a second year graduate student at Michigan State University in the School of Journalism. His research has covered news media bias and framing issues, censorship during war, urban revitalization, renewable energy and climate change.

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