Social Media leaving a lot of unanswered questions/issues for Candidates/Elected Officials!


As we come upon the City of Lowell Election Season, I’m watching with interest the Social media component. Most candidates will have a website, twitter feed and/or Facebook page.

What I’m wondering is can a supporter hurt a candidate by using social media thinking they are helping? Can a detractor hurt a candidate or elected official by either attacking that person or instead attacking that person’s opponent while endorsing a candidate / elected official, even though he/she is really just trying to make a candidate’s life miserable?

Would/Could that make any difference in the election?

Suppose that I decide that Mayor Elliott is the guy I want as Mayor again next term. If I ran post after post bashing Ed Kennedy in October and early November and supporting Mayor Elliott, would that make any difference?

What if Dick Howe or Bernie Lynch or Paul Marion did it?

Does it depend on who the person or group is doing the posting? For that matter can a candidate do anything to stop me if I don’t cross whatever “THE LINE” might be?

I’m guessing the honorable Mayor wouldn’t be too pleased if I ran post after post attacking one of his fellow councilors even if I do so in support of him, especially given our history but since I’m doing it on my personal Facebook page or on my Blog’s Facebook page is there anything he or any candidate can do to stop it?

What if I run “sponsored” Post on Facebook? Attacking Ed Kennedy while supporting the Mayor. Does the Mayor have any recourse and because I’m “running” sponsored post, is he now forced to claim those as political contributions?

How can he know if I spent $5 $20 or $50 on a Sponsored Facebook Post? What if the candidate doesn’t want or support the post to begin with? How can any one who see’s or reads it, know if the candidate did or didn’t approve of the Sponsored post? Can the candidate do anything to stop it?

I do think it would be a waste of someones time and money to just keep attacking and attacking but we just saw in Chelmsford a man who did just that until he was brought to court and lost a jury case that could cost him millions of dollars. He did it using a mailing but what is stopping someone from using Social Media to do the same thing?

Facebook, Blogs, Twitter etc. like Public Access TV gives the person hosting/posting a very large berth with little regulations except to say We aren’t responsible for what these nitwits say, we just provide the forum for them to say it!

The “gentlemen” who host/run the Dracut Connection Show and Facebook Page are the ones who got me thinking about the entire social media aspect of an election. They have run attack after attack post on an incumbent Selectman in favor of their co-host who is the challenger, even running multiple sponsored post and using their Public Access Show to also attack the sitting Selectman.

Aren’t the post which are supposedly designed to “Boost” the number of views to a page, really just a form of a political ad?

Do they have to submit receipts to the candidate for these ads? Do they count as political contributions? Does the candidate support these ads or were they done on his behalf without his consent? If they where can he stop that? Is he required to claim them as in-kind contributions?

If the current Selectman should lose the race, you would have to wonder how big an advantage for the the challenger was it, having all that free public access air-time, the post on Facebook and the Sponsored post on Facebook and how much did that contribute to the victory for the challenger.

I’ll also wonder how much all the negativity hurt the challenger when he loses and how much of the negativity did the challenger support and agree with?

I took at quick look at the State’s OCPF Website but the “rules” about the use of Social Media aren’t very clear and I’m not even sure that any State, City, Town has looked at the evolving use of Social media.

How big an impact does Social Media have on any Election? IMHO at least here in Lowell I’d say very little to date.

Sure there are a few examples where a blog or Facebook page post something and it gets a reaction and maybe you even see some action/reaction by local officials but in my eyes the SUN (newspaper) still wheels the most power. They reach far more people than a Facebook, Twitter, Blog or other Social Media Post and can make or break a candidate or elected/ appointed official.If you have any doubt, look at the last Council Election in Lowell.

Will that change over time? Maybe but I don’t see that occurring any time soon.

So I’ll watch the use of Social media but I’d like to hear from you and what you think of the role of Social Media in Campaigns and what effect a supporter / detractor has on a candidate.

FYI: You can now also find this post on my newly created Facebook Site:

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