Politics and the Internet

Jan 10th, 2012

As we approach another presidential election, it is interesting to look back on how the internet has evolved through the last fifteen years of politics. An early moment in the modern technical era of politics was the creation of a GOP Internet forum in 1997 at freerepublic.com. In 1998, the website moveon.org was created for progressives as a political community formed in response to the impeachment of President Bill Clinton.

Over the years, the internet has been used in many different ways to help and hinder political campaigns. Today, there are thousands of websites that relate to politics.

One popular use of the internet by politicians has been online fundraising. In 2000, Sen. John McCain managed to raise more than $500,000 over the internet in less than 24 hours after he won the New Hampshire primary. This was a significant amount of money at that time, and was a significant moment for online fundraising. In 2007, Ron Paul raised $4.3 million in 24 hours on November 5 largely through online donations, then again on December 16 his campaign brought in $6 million in 24 hours.

Also in 2000, the use of online ads became quite popular. In that campaign year, Republicans ran more than 20 unique banners on 35 websites, while the Democrats ran a single banner ad on Yahoo. The use of online ads evolved over the years and culminated in Democrat Scott Murphy's successful 2009 congressional district election which was supported by the new Google Blast Advertising Campaign, which blanketed sites running Google AdSense with Murphy ads targeted to people in his district.

In 2002, blog sites were not as common as they are today. Markos Moulitsas burst onto the scene with his blog site dailykos.com, and two years later he was among the first bloggers given press credentials to cover the Democratic National Convention in Boston. Over the years, well written blogs have garnered the attention of potential voters, so blog sites have become instrumental in all campaigns.

In addition to blog sites, social media has become a widespread online campaign method. Just like selling products, selling a candidate via social networking has become an art form. In 2006, Georgia Rep. Jack Kingston was one of the first to utilize social media by posting a video of what his campaign called Mailtube on YouTube, an attempt to reach out to constituents through the use of online video.

In 2007, President Barack Obama took social networking to a new level with my.barackobama.com, which helped organize volunteers and supporters online. Facebook and Twitter also gave rise to an enormous amount of political activity in 2008. Facebook Connect was also launched which was a set of APIs from Facebook that enabled Facebook members to log onto third-party websites. This led to the integration of political websites and social networking websites, allowing a campaign to send out messages to the online community including Facebook and Twitter.

With elections fast approaching, how can you take advantage of your website hosting account to participate in the coming elections? If you have a blog that garners enough visitors, you could be selling political campaign ads, or even get yourself media credentials for campaign events. In the end, the freedom to voice your opinion via your website is powerful, so don't keep quite...speak up now!