[Update: More media coverage and some Obama damage control below.]
Micah Sifry posted a fascinating analysis last night of the Obama campaign’s takeover of a formerly volunteer-run MySpace site for the candidate, complete with dueling accusations and a lot of ill will all around. More than two years ago, Barak fan Joe Anthony started a MySpace page in honor of the then-Senator, only to see its friend list balloon to over 160,000 in the frenzy of attention paid to the presidential race over the past few months. Understandably, Obama’s campaign staff became uncomfortable with such a valuable asset being controlled by a volunteer and decided to take it over. Unfortunately, from there things went to hell quickly, leaving the campaign with egg on its face and Anthony labeled (unfairly, to my eyes) a cyber-squatter and money-grubber.
As Micah points out, this exact situation probably won’t play out again, since high-profile campaigns will start their own official MySpace pages and preempt amateurs in the future. But, it says a lot about the power of random political supporters (and by extension, opponents) to build up networks of excited people outside of a campaign’s direct control. As citizen-created media become more common in the political world, questions of direction, power and control will crop up more and more campaigns are not used to letting other people shape their messages, and more feelings are likely to get bruised in the future. Balancing message discipline and real citizen involvement in politics is going to be a problem for traditionally-minded campaign operatives.
Update More coverage online:
- Obama’s MySpace Mess: Enter the Shovel Brigade (TechPresident follow-on story). Note: Obama called the unhappy volunteer! Good damage control (finally).
- HisSpace: Obama seizes backer’s site (Chicago Tribune).
- Obama Campaign Asks: Is It MySpace or Yours? (Washington Post)
- Updated Obama campaign usurps Myspace website, not a hit (Daily Kos)
- Obama’s MySpace Conundrum (New York Times)
- Obama: WhoseSpace? (National Journal)
- Obama Now Controls His Space On MySpace (AP via CBS News)
- Obama’s MySpace Fiasco (Bivings Report)
- Things get unfriendly for Obama (Prezvid)
- Obama blows into MySpace (MyDD)