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Whose tweets are these anyway? (What happens when election campaign tweets get deleted?)

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Today, there was a bit of a flurry of tweets after the official Twitter account by SPD candidate for chancelor, Peer Steinbrück, sent this tweet:

deleted tweet

… and then deleted it. (Screenshot from Politwoops)

Because it can be hard to read, the tweet says: “Wann hat sich ein Kanzlerkandidat irgendeiner Partei schon mal für Netzpolitik interessiert! Wann? cc @pottblog” (translation: When did any party’s candidate for chancellor have any interest in net politics before? When?)

In general, deleting tweets isn’t considered good style. Fair enough.

Before I continue, full disclosure: I once was an advisor to the federal youth campaign for SPD, back in 2009, and as a student job I worked on the SPD 2005 campaign as well. I don’t have any business relationship with the party now.

So, now that that’s out of the way, I think there are several aspects to look at this.

One, overall etiquette. Should tweets ever be deleted (if so, when is it acceptable), and if they are, should it be marked? I tend to go a pretty pragmatic way: If something’s posted accidentally, delete the tweet or say it in the next tweet. This, and that’s important to stress, doesn’t serve to hide the information, but to help prevent the spreading of information that wasn’t intended to be published. In other words, both the deletion and the clarifying statement serve (IMHO) as a statement of intention: “please don’t spread this, it was an honest mistake and not intended to be published”. If something’s tweeted on purpose but simply wrong, never delete but own up. Also, be aware that no tweets stays deleted, ever, because what’s out there is out there.

Two, if something is tweeted, like in this case obviously, accidentally on one account but was meant for another. (According to Twitwoops, the fantastic services that archives tweets deleted from politicians’ accounts, the tweet in question was deleted within half a minute.) If, in other words, something that was meant to be a tweet from the personal account of a member of the election campaign team that has access to the candidate’s twitter account as is normal and as it should have, then what’s the best next step? Does a tweet, even if by technical/human error sent from a candidate’s account, count as “their tweet”? Frankly I don’t think so.

Here’s the original tweet, from the owner, and surely it’s harmless enough in this context:

Tobias Nehren (Fison) on Twitter

So, I don’t know what the best practice is. But I do know that a bit of common sense helps put this things in context. In my experience as someone who pretty much posts stuff online all day and who’s also been heavily involved in election campaigns where things tend to move very fast, more often than not there’s no intention to hide things but simple, honest mistakes. We’re all human.

German Young Voter Campaign Copies U.S. Don’t Vote Video

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identical storm troopers All of them are looking the same. In the Imperial Army that’s probably good. In political campaigning, not so much.

Now here I’m in a bit of a dilemma. Check out this German knock-off version of the Don’t Vote video. (Both versions at the end of this post.)

On one hand, I’m always glad about anything that encourages folks to vote. I’m very politically interested, I supported a much-talked about recent online petition (see my blog posts), signed a class-action lawsuit against data retention, interned at – and later briefly worked as an editor for – German online politics magazine and think tank politik-digital.de, did all kinds of stuff, mostly outside party politics. These days (disclaimer!) I’m an adviser to the youth online campaign of the SPD, more concretely Jusos.

All that to say: I really appreciate any effort whatsoever that individuals, and organizations of any kind take to get more people to vote, because I think political action in general and voting in particular is incredibly important.

But. And it’s a big but. But on the other hand, the German internet scene has long since gotten the reputation of just copying U.S. web services. (I’m looking at you, StudiVZ, but not only at you, there’s many more cases just as blatant as that.) And in this sense, there’s this video here, called “geh nicht hin”, which translates into “don’t go there”, referring to the federal elections on 27 Sept.

The video is done, I’m sure, with the best of intentions. Produced, as far as I can tell, by probono.tv, a well-respected TV production company, and politik-digital.de, the very online politics magazine I used to work for and that I highly respect. The whole thing was done, in other words, by the good guys.

Now here I am, as I said, in a bit of a dilemma. It’s a good video, it’s a great idea, it’s smart, and it supports a cause I also support. But it’s a direct, 1:1 copy, a total knock-off. And to make matters worse, it’s a direct knock-off of the U.S. elections. Campaigners Germany-wide have talked for a long time about how Obama campaign blueprints can be adapted to the German elections. (I don’t think they can.) It’s become almost a joke: “Well, let’s do it like Obama!” But here we are, different country, different political system, different parties, candidates, issues. Different campaigning system even.

Still, this video just copies this American video (which I found pretty good), and just translates it. Which makes it look rather sad. And sure, you could argue that people here haven’t seen it and that a good adaption of an idea can still be valid, and that’s true. But this left me with a bit of a bitter taste.

(The website gehnichthin.de is showing a technical error message while I’m writing this, but the video is visible there.) Update (29 July): gehnichthin.de is live and working now.

So here’s the two videos. Top: German version “geh nicht hin”. Bottom: U.S. version “don’t vote”.

Much more funny, by the way, is this video response by German bloggers. It translates to: “don’t go outside!”, poking fun at the cliché of geeks hiding behind their computers and avoiding the outside world:

Photo by Jeremy Mates (Creative Commons)

Chinese Anti-CNN Campaign

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Note: I won’t touch the politics behind this campaign in this post. If you were looking for any political opinion on this subject, feel free to skip this post.

Over the last couple of days, I’ve been getting increasing amounts of propaganda material spam (pardon: information) related to China’s campaign against the CNN.

(When I say “China”, I’m referring not necessarily to the government, although I suspect it’s a driving force here, but to the origin of the messages. Same goes for CNN: The news channel is just a name for Western media, both in said campaign and in this post. End of disclaimer.)

Just to name a few pieces I found noteworthy:

Anti-Riot and Anti-CNN shirts: Anti-Riot shirts (I have to admit, I kind of like the slightly oddly translated slogan “Anti-Riot & Explore The Truth”.)

A Twitter account called Jack Cafferty, supposedly by the CNN anchor. The profile links to Anti-CNN.com where you can find the real deal, like campaign propaganda videos suggesting that the situation in Iraq and U.S. involvement there has relevance to what’s going on in Tibet. (Err. Ok. No politics, right?)

Twitter Anti-CNN hasn’t said a lot yet, but follows a motley crew of folks including: Putin, Mao, Jack Cafferty, Jiang Zemin, and – oddly enough – Jeremiah Owyang.*

One thing all of them have in common: The words truth and lies are used rather inflationary, and usually in upper case. Always a good sign, right?

Apart from that, I do find it interesting how quickly social media are deployed in this campaign. And I can’t help but wonder: Is this a centralized, orchestrated campaign or some kind of decentralized, bottom-up movement?

Have you experienced any elements of the Anti-CNN campaign? What did you think?

  • Update: As Jeremiah notes correctly, it’s not strange that folks are following him (many do, he’s a thought leader in social media), and it doesn’t indicate his endorsement of his followers. However, when I checked Anti-CNN’s Twitter account, they were following only (or to a large extent) fake profiles of dictators, political leaders, media figures. It’s that not-being-fake part that made Jeremiah stand out. Sorry for the misunderstanding, J.!

I heart Miro: How to Build Passive Support for Your Good Cause

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I Heart Miro

I Heart Miro is a simple Firefox extension to support the open-source internet TV project Miro (formerly known as Democracy Player). When you buy books at Amazon, you do it through the Miro Firefox extension, and Miro gets paid for every sale through the Amazon affiliate program.

I Heart Miro is a simple, yet great example of getting passive support for a good cause. And with passive, I mean that your supporters won’t have to take any active steps or have to actively donate money, but you still get financial support. Now this takes win/win to a whole new level, no?

I just installed the Firefox extension, and if you’re into creative internet TV, you should get it, too.

One Laptop Per Child Project Launches Social Media Campaign

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One Laptop Per ChildAs I’ve mentioned before, I’m a huge fan of the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) initiative, which aims at giving kids in developing countries a rugged laptop so they get easier access to educational material and so they get a chance to bridge the digital gap on their own.

If you’d like to support the OLPC project, there’s a great way to do so: You buy two laptops and it’s Give One, Get One. One of the awesome green things is mailed to you, the other one goes straight to a soon-to-be-hacking kid. (The program is available to U.S. and Canadian citizens only, so far, so to order from somewhere else, you’ll have to do so through friends in the States. Which, admittedly, can be kind of a pain.)

This Give One, Get One program is, of course, a fundraiser, but first and foremost a means to raise awarenesss. The OLPC project is also accompanied by a very solid social media campaign. As Chris Brogan has pointed out, this is a great example for how social media can drive social responsibility campaigns.

The OLPC campaign includes updates through Twitter, both for transparency (Peru just ordered 260,000 laptops) and to point out other supporting projects, such as Luminaire, a fundraiser by artists for OLPC. You can support OLPC through the Facebook cause, or even give this greenest of all laptops directly through Facebook.

There’s a joint story telling campaign by UNICEF, OLPC and Google, Our Stories:

The Our Storiesâ„¢ project helps people share the stories of their lives, no matter where they live or how their stories unfold. We’re providing resources to create and share personal stories from all over the world, starting with children in developing countries who are using One Laptop per Child (OLPC) computers or those who are working with UNICEF radio producers to record and share interviews. Children are asked to record the stories of elders, family members, and friends.

Personally, I’d still like to see what happens if you hook up the OLPC Laptop with Twitter. My idea? It’d go boom, in a good way. But that’s just me.

(If you speak German, you might also be interested in Markus Beckedahl‘s take on how the web offers good opportunities particularly small political organizations. Having been active in the online campaigning field for a long time, he knows the ropes and shared his insights in this interview he gave for my client Blogpiloten.de.)

US Writer’s Guild still on strike…

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… and I don’t quite know what to make of the fact that I care more about the strike of entertainers a few thousand kilometers away than about a strike of the whole train system in this country here. Oh well, so be it.

(It will not come as a surprise that I support the writers as opposed to the big studies: Those studios don’t want to pay the writers for use of their work online. I think it’s important to show that the web is just as important as good ol’ TV.)

Then again, while I don’t take the train every day, I do check out some U.S. writers or shows on a daily basis. Oh, in case you haven’t been following up on what’s going on with this strike, just Ask A Ninja: