Social media giants enter the political fray

Jeff Hargarten

Social media companies are increasingly involved in the 2012 presidential campaign, the AP reports.

Companies such as Facebook and Google have been hosting debates and town halls in historic numbers this year. Their online presence has connected voters to presidential campaigns and each other in ways never before seen. People have become engaged in the political process and have been encouraged to vote.

However, along with the increased involvement of social media companies comes increased lobbying and the formation of political action committees to push their interests on Capitol Hill.

Photo courtesy of allwelike

Facebook has formed a PAC and has sent 21 lobbyists to Washington, the Center for Responsive politics reports. The social media giant has previously expressed interest in becoming the nation’s internet driver’s license through expansion of its Facebook Connect API and support of the Obama Administration’s National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace.

Google, meanwhile, has spent $3.5 million on lobbying, and its PAC has distributed $345,000 to political candidates. Google also hosted a GOP presidential debate in conjunction with FOX News this September that spurned 20,000 viewer submitted questions. YouTube, one of Google’s acquisitions, has launched a special channel for following the 2012 presidential contest.

Twitter has made a deep impact on the ways politicians communicate, as President Obama and all of the GOP candidates have accounts, along with 85 U.S. senators and 360 House members. The status sharing website doesn’t have a PAC or political lobby at this time.

“The exposure — being branded as ‘the’ place to go for social media — has huge economic consequences for these companies,” said University of Minnesota journalism professor Heather LaMarre.