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ISSUE 121 VOL 8 PUBLISHED 11/16/2007

Candidates hit the 'books

By Natalie Neal
Contributing Writer


Friday, November 16, 2007

There are few students left on college campuses who don't have a profile on Facebook.com. With the 2008 elections less than a year away, it is only natural that political candidates are turning to Facebook as a means of reaching out to college students.

According to the Facebook website, it is the sixth most visited website on the Internet. Facebookers spend an average of 20 minutes per day on the site, according to comScore, Inc., a global leader in measuring the digital world. Moreover, there are 53 million active users, meaning they have visited their profile in the past 30 days.

Political Facebook groups have sprung up advocating for human rights, petitions or to show support for a political candidate. In fact, a recent group known as "1,000,000 Strong for Stephen T. Colbert" accumulated over 1 million members in eight days. It currently has 1,403,849 members.

When Mr. Colbert, the comedian on the satirical news show "The Colbert Report," declared his intention to run for the presidency in October, Raj Vachhani created this Facebook group.

"The group was growing very quickly and began overloading one of our servers, but we have since resolved that problem," a Facebook spokeswoman said. The grassroots support shown by Vachhani and other Facebookers demonstrates that Facebook can be a powerful tool to reach younger voters.

Politicians have taken notice, too. Now politicians have the ability to purchase special profiles to court the younger generation, and there are currently more than 1,600 contenders for national and state offices who have created such profiles.

By simply clicking "Support This Politician" on any politician's profile, which candidate you back will appear on your profile. Not only that, but you can communicate with politicians by writing on their wall or sending them a private message. Facebook is making it easier for the young voters to have a more influential role in politics.

The central feature to politics on Facebook is the application known as "U.S. Politics." As the description for the application says, it allows you to "view profiles of presidential candidates, members of Congress and state governors. Connect with the politicians you support and interact with America's leaders." You can also register to vote, participate in political issue forums known as Debate Groups and check the Election Pulse to see how each race is shaping up.

Facebook has teamed up with ABC News to bring users the latest news on politics and recent poll information for the 2008 elections. ABC News has sent out a group of reporters, known as the "off-airs," to follow the candidates and report directly to the public via their special Facebook profiles.

Jason Teiken '10, a politically active student on campus, commented on the use of Facebook for political awareness. "It affects political awareness through the use of groups, applications such as the Obama application, making contacts with campaigns and "friending" the politicians themselves. Groups allow more flexibility since many of them are about advocacy of specific issues," Teiken said.

Whether it is to support a joke contender for office like Colbert or to follow and comment on the political issues of today, Facebook has become integral to connecting college students with U.S. politics.





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