With the US electoral campaign dwindling down with just a few months, things are heating up between the two parties. Nobody knows for sure what the outcome will be. And the presidential candidates are coming up with tricks to win more hearts.
In a surprise interview that recently made headlines, President Obama tapped the internet landscape as a different tool for his campaign. He was interviewed by the relatively unknown social media Reddit (in comparison to Facebook, that is, where he has over 28 million fans, and Twitter).
But whether it was just a campaign ploy by the president to further his image with his strongest constituents- the youth- it is still a milestone. In a 30 minute interview, he addressed the questions that were fielded through the social news site Reddit. He answered about 10 questions out of the tens of thousands that were submitted. The session was so popular it slowed down the whole site with many users unable to access the site.
This is a milestone because 1) this has never been done in any US history 2) it furthers the image that internet has indeed the capacity to replace all other forms of media like print and broadcasting and 3) it proves the intensifying value of social media usage in our culture, with the powerful man in the country himself giving it a stamp of approval.
This session by Reddit is known as AMA or Ask Me Anything, and has the reputation to be quite brutal. Redditors, as members are called, would drill the interviewer if they feel he or she is dodging controversial issues. Again this is a perfect description of social media and internet as great equalizers. There is no room for dishonesty neither is there tolerance for evasiveness from transparency.
Mostly the president answered probes regarding political financing, troops in Afghanistan and internet legislature. About net legislation, he had this to say, “Internet freedom is something I know you all care passionately about; I do too. We will fight hard to make sure that the Internet remains the open forum for everybody — from those who are expressing an idea to those to want to start a business.”
This was in response to the Republicans recently vowing internet freedom as part of their platform. This was in turn a reaction to a Republican representative’s strong advocacy against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) that was introduced in October of 2011 where the usual norm of internet copy and paste is called an infringement on intellectual property rights. It also bans search engines from linking to other websites, which is basically the death of whole internet industry.
The SOPA received protests from internet giants last year like Google, Facebook and Wikipedia as well as Reddit. As a sign of dissent, Wikipedia closed down for 24 hours citing that it is suppression of online rights.
The Republicans believe that the internet is better off self-regulating with the private sectors imposing their own rules. They have released statements giving their vote to internet freedom.
“The Internet has unleashed innovation, enabled growth, and inspired freedom more rapidly and extensively than any other technological advance in human history,” reads the “Protecting Internet Freedom” section of the platform. “Its independence is its power. The Internet offers a communications system uniquely free from government intervention.”
Photo of the President Typing
The photo of the President typing on his laptop that was sent out by the White House became trending as soon as it was released. It was sent out to prove that it was indeed President Obama himself answering the questions.
Reddit’s AMA is an interesting tableau of the old-style town hall way of talking to your elected candidate. And this is what social media is really all about: going back to our roots of having access to even the President of the United States of America.