Facebook, Twitter, YouTube get in on presidential debates

Social networks set to live stream all the upcoming political action

Social media users won't just be taking to Twitter and Facebook to comment and gripe about the presidential debates this fall.

They'll be able to watch the three debates between Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton on live streams on three of the top social media players -- Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.

"This is unprecedented," said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research. "This lets people see [the debates] in different formats and more places. More importantly, the social platforms let everyone comment in real time. Being able to immediately share about what you're seeing has huge implications."

Twitter and Bloomberg Media announced this week that they are teaming up to live stream Bloomberg Television's broadcast of the presidential and vice presidential debates on Twitter.

"Twitter is where the 2016 presidential election is happening every single day," said Anthony Noto, Twitter's chief financial officer, in a statement. "Live streaming the debates with Bloomberg, combined with the live commentary and conversation on Twitter, will create a one-screen experience at the center of the action unlike any other."

Twitter isn't alone, though.

ABC News is set to deliver its live video programming of the debates on Facebook Live.

YouTube also will be live streaming the debates as part of its ongoing get-out-the-vote effort.

"This allows people to share opinions," said Kerravala. "A person who is on the fence of one candidate versus another or unsure of certain issues could follow some experts he or she really respects, and as they comment, it will help educate them on the meaning of Trump or Hillary's statements."

Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research, has his doubts, though.

According to Gottheil, people who would have been tweeting, posting comments and reposting memes and information points put out by both political camps would have been doing that regardless of a live stream.

However, he said the live streams could be a boost for the social networks involved.

"Only a little, and only to the extent that they can promote this debate interaction to people who don't already know about it," Gottheil said. "This will remind some of those people of that 'real time' opportunity to combine two of their favorite things – politics and social media."

Google and Facebook already have played roles in the upcoming debates. They were both tapped to help people engage with the candidates by providing data to the moderators in the weeks leading up to the debates on what people are searching and saying about the election, the candidatesand the issues.

The presidential debates will be held Monday, on Oct. 9 and on Oct. 19.

The vice presidential debate between Democrat Tim Kaine and Republican Mike Pence will be held Oct. 4.

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Sharon Gaudin

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