Google, Facebook, Twitter, Other Tech Companies Making Their Presence Felt in 2016 Election


The country’s most valuable and visible tech companies are making their presence felt in the 2016 presidential election.

Their efforts — some public, others less obvious to voters — are an aggressive play to make their brands an even biggerpart of the political process and cement their position in American life.

It’s a marked shift from 2008, the last election with nomination contests on both sides. That year technology was decisive in President Obama’s win but the companies weren’t nearly as dominant as they are today.

“To the extent that platforms like Facebook and Twitter position themselves, or [are] capitalizing or raising their profile, as sort of being central to democratic processes, I think they gain a legitimacy as being core information providers and information conduits in democracy,” said Daniel Kreiss, an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Media and Journalism.

Tech companies are now regularly co-sponsors of primary debates, their logos visible behind candidatesduring broadcasts that are breaking ratings records.

More than half of the sanctioned primary debates this cycle have been co-sponsored by tech companies. That’s more than in 2012 and in 2008, when the only tech-network partnership, between CNN and YouTube, was treated as a novelty.

The companies are also influencing what gets onscreen. Google has has YouTube stars ask candidates questions and Facebook’s data is regularly referenced by debate moderators as a barometer of the public mood.

Sometimes, what’s happening on social networks affects, in real time, the questions asked on stage.

Social media exploded when Hillary Clinton defended raking in millions in Wall Street donations by saying she represented New York state on 9/11 during a November CBS debate co-sponsored by Twitter.

CBS producers with the help of an embedded Twitter team used new social tools to find a critical tweet. Moderators referenced it in a follow-up question.

“Fifty years of televised presidential debates and [it was] the first time that people yelling at the screen had their voice heard on the stage,” said Adam Sharp, the head of news, government and elections at Twitter.

The companies have also rolled out more features voters can use to learn about the candidates.

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SOURCE: David McCabe  
The Hill