Eight ways technology has shaped the US elections

From e-voting to text messaging, a look at how tech trends have changed politics

The YouTube debates

The YouTube debates

Technology has played a particularly prominent role in the 2008 US elections -- and it isn't just the typical silliness over whether a candidate really claimed to have invented a key piece of technology. Throughout the year we've seen technological advances used both for good, such as using Short Message Service to announce a vice presidential pick, and for bad, such as hacking into another vice presidential pick's private e-mail account. In this story, we'll take a look at the eight techiest moments of the 2008 presidential race, including YouTube debates, viral videos and e-voting controversies.

The YouTube debates

Back when Hillary Clinton, Mitt Romney, John Edwards and Mike Huckabee still had a chance to win the presidency, CNN hosted a debate in which Republican and Democratic presidential candidates responded to questions sent over the Web and broadcast through YouTube. The so-called "YouTube debates" drew from more than 2,000 videos posted online, and for the first time gave voters from across the US direct access to the people running for the nation's highest office. As with anything related to the Internet and politics, however, the debate was not without controversy. Specifically, some viewers were displeased that CNN picked the questions that would be aired, while other partisans were upset that people from opposing parties were allowed to ask questions to their party's candidates.

Obama's adventures with viral videos

"YouTube moments" have been a staple of American politics since 2006, when former Senator George Allen was recorded referring to a volunteer for the rival Jim Webb campaign as "macaca." This year, Barack Obama had two major viral videos directly impact his campaign, one for good and one for bad. In the former case, an enthusiastic supporter calling herself "ObamaGirl" made a series of hilariously over-the-top videos proclaiming her undying crush to her favorite junior senator. In the latter case, Obama was hurt by a viral video of his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, shouting "God damn America!" during one of his sermons. What the YouTube can giveth, the YouTube can also taketh away.

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Brad Reed

Network World
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