US ABC News, Facebook add Web 2.0 angle to presidential race

US ABC News and Facebook announced a new initiative today aimed at injecting a Web 2.0 twist to the 2008 race for the White House.

The two have created an application called US Politics -- built by combining Facebook technology with editorial content from ABC News -- to give Facebook users new ways to learn about and debate issues of importance in the upcoming primary and national elections, the two companies said.

Facebook users taking part in the program will affect how ABC News approaches its coverage of campaign events, said David Westin, president of ABC News.

ABC News reporters embedded with presidential candidates throughout the race will post news stories, blogs and photographs from the campaign trail directly onto Facebook, ABC said. A section of the application called Debate Groups will allow Facebook members to post and share thoughts about the campaign, especially during the nominating conventions of the political parties next year.

"The goal is to extend the debate from being a one-hour session that happens on television to a dialogue that can take place before, after and now during the debate with voters," said Dan Rose, Facebook's vice president of business development, in a statement. "We're all about providing technology platforms to enable and facilitate information flow and dialogue."

The US Politics application will also poll users on their reactions to various campaign issues. To access the new application, Facebook users can type "US Politics" in the search field of the social network.

ABC News and Facebook this week are also expected to announce plans to co-host a presidential debate in January before the New Hampshire primary, according to report today in The New York Times.

To avoid having it be viewed as just a marketing gimmick for a potential debate, ABC News should use the new Facebook page to collect questions from Facebook members to be posed to candidates during a debate and to poll users about the issues they want the candidates to talk about, noted Erick Schonfeld, a blogger at TechCrunch.

"ABC News would be smart to use Facebook to develop a consensus around which issues are most important to people, and to sharpen those questions before they are submitted to the candidates," he said in the post. "ABC News could use Facebook itself to keep them honest by setting up a feedback mechanism during the debate that lets people vote on whether or not they think the candidates are actually answering the questions."

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Heather Havenstein

Computerworld

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