Facebook and Google to help shape questions at the debates

Facebook will also be the exclusive social media sponsor, with a Live Stream of the events

Technology trends and news by Steven Loeb
September 15, 2016
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Social media has been a democratizing force in a lot of ways, but one of the most interesting things is the effect is can have on our actually democracy. It can give us access to our elected officials in ways never dreamed of before. While this is not always a good thing, at least not for them (just ask poor, troubled Anthony Weiner) but it does change the dynamic between the rulers and the ruled. 

While services like Twitter and YouTube made their way into primary debates years ago, they have, for whatever reason, never been used in the debates between the two eventual nominees. Maybe the primary debates are a bit looser, or taken a bit less seriously, but social media has been, so far, kept out of the national debates.

That is going to change this year, as the Commission on Presidential Debates announced that Facebook and Google are going to be involved with shaping the questions that are asked during the three debates between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

That means the two companies will be giving moderators data on what people are searching for, and talking about, in the weeks leading to the debates. In addition, Facebook will actually be helping the moderators source questions to ask. 

"Other technology platforms will be engaged in this effort as well including Google, #CollegeDebate16, and many other social media grassroots organizations," said the CPD. 

Facebook will also be taking a role during debates, as the exclusive social media sponsor for the first and third events. 

Not only will Facebook be around before the debates, but during as well.

The company will be on site at the debate host universities, the first taking place at Hofstra University (my alma mater! Whoot whoot!) on September 26, and the third at Washington University in St. Louis on October 9. There will be a Facebook Live broadcast, which users will be able to comment on, and ask questions, though it doesn't seem like any live questions will be making it on air (which is a shame if you ask me)

Not to be outdone, Snapchat will also be taking a role in the debates as well, with a Live Story for each one. I imagine these will mostly be coming from the students at each university, not the professors. 

Social media at the debates

Social media first entered into the debates back in 2007, when CNN began showing questions submitted by citizens on YouTube for the Democratic debates between then Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton (were we ever really so young?).

Since then, it has become a staple. Last year, for example, Twitter announced that it had partnered up with CBS News for the Democratic debate in November.

CBS will used Twitter's curator tools to measure"changing responses to what viewers were watching, while Twitter will also provided CBS News with real-time data and insights.

Twitter's inclusion in that debate actually led to one of my favorite moments of the entire campaign season: when Hillary Clinton tried to use 9/11 to defend her connections to Wall Street (yes, that's a thing that she really said), she was rebuked by a citizen, on Twitter, in real time, forcing her to immediately respond, without any preparation.

She handled it well enough, but that's what I think we need more of in the debates. Real questions, from real people, that the candidates can't skirt around. 

If we get more moments like this, then I have no problem with social media becoming an ever more important aspect of our election cycle.

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