Rahaf Harfoush on the Obama CampaignDigital Media and the Future of Politics - Rahaf Harfoush

How are social networks and collaboration technologies changing the way we support and influence governments and campaigns?

What did the Obama campaign do that was different? MyBo.com allowed participants to connect, blog, write, demonstrate support. Traditionally candidates ability to reach into different states was limited by their resources - it's expensive to reach lots of states. This tool let the campaign tap into a network of millions of volunteers, who could self-organise.

2 million profiles created in 2 years; 35,000 volunteer groups created (e.g. "Chihuahua owners for Obama"); 400k blog posts; 200k offline events.

Traditionally voters would be distanced from a candidate - they'd see them on TV news, but that's it. With this campaign you'd be reading their thoughts on the blog, see cameraphone pictures from the campaign team, see unscripted moments (e.g. Obama playing basketball). This bond translated into a feeling of closeness to the candidate and personal investment in seeing them succeed: supporters become friends.

The McCain campaign raised $360m, the Obama $750m. In September 2008 Palin said that she felt campaign organisers didn't have impact. The Obama community was built on the opposite belief: that anyone can get out and make a change. This galvanised Obama supporters into demonstrating what their community organisers could do - in 24h they raised $10m. By end 2008, they'd received $150m, two-thirds from online.

Today there's a focus on open data and transparency in government. The community that supported Obama in the 2 years before he got into the white house aren't going away.

The Sunlight Foundation works with the Obama administration on data.gov and recovery.org (to track spending related to the Recovery Act).

Google are mapping government requests, to see how governments are interacting with our data.

Ushahidi.org: a citizen journalist site from Kenya which allowed people to report instances of threat to the political process: took something not spoken about and made it open to the world.

Social media made the Iran protests something larger than "just inside Iran" - e.g. green-tinting of avatars to draw attention. Effectively, people who weren't in Iran were expressing a desire for the story to be given prominence.

In Rhode Island, citizens are looking for a new Mayor and are rethinking the political process with Uncaucus: putting out a job description, deciding what the role of the mayor is. In Canada, an unpopular decision from the prime minister Stephen Harper to dissolve parliament led to a Facebook campaign to see if an onion ring could get more fans than the prime minister - it could.

In Mexico, drug dealers are using Facebook and Twitter to support their business (e.g. tweeting about government roadblocks). Governments there are writing legislation to monitor and regulate these tools. This legislation will include creating a police force to monitor social networks. They're considering banning Twitter (as in Iran they're banning access to GMail, and in China they've banned Facebook). Expect more of this.

In Kurdistan last year, 80% of their bandwidth was taken offline for two weeks, just as the government was taking pressure from Russia to shut down a US airbase... once the parliament voted to shut the base, the attacks stopped.

US Government asked Twitter to postpone scheduled maintenance, so USG could monitor the election situation in Iran.

Retweeting something isn't getting involved.

Q: Do you have any examples of how to combat hijacking?

A: On MyBo you could organise meetings in your neighbourhood. There were lots of examples of people organising meetings against Obama. It's important for your supported to understand the mission, that they become your advocates. You can't control everyone, you can't be everywhere at once - but you can turn your community into your eyes and ears. We had our community spotting these groups, eventually. Objectionable content was spotted and removed within two minutes of it being posted. This is a risk that comes with the territory.

Claudia Sommer and the Greenpeace Twitter WallClaudia Sommer, Greenpeace Germany: Greenpeace social media strategy and on-line campaigns

Greenpeace has done mass-media comms for decades. What we do now is "open campaigning" - giving people more opportunities to get involved. In Germany we have some obvious problems solved, but the big ones (climate change) remain. In the past we've pushed these into the spotlight with TV or print campaigns. We need to create peer pressure and visible actions. We will do this by getting in touch with people who are already active and who are willing to mobilise others.

Facebook and Twitter work well for us (8700 and 8100 fans respectively). Flickr is interesting for us, we want to publish our photos under Creative Commons but it means renegotiating rights with photographers. At the same time we think it's important for us to be independent of any one social network.

Greenpeace can't solve issues like climate change alone; we need wide public support. If we campaign against Nestle, say, it's important for us to have good backing - they own large media companies. GreenAction is our platform to kickstart online campaigns: it's independent, with no advertising, political parties or companies. Initially designed for Greenpeace, it is available for other environmental campaigns too: "open source" campaigns.

8 months in, 6050 registered users, 15-20% launch campaigns (500 so far). Three different user groups: individuals, campaigners, organisations like Bund. There's a tendency to "mash up" (or combine) similar campaigns. Very few terms-of-service violations.

Shows the Nestle Killer campaign, which they started on GreenAction. Just over 5000 people involved on the site, spreading the message, talking to Nestle directly via Twitter. They took a digital Twitter-wall to Nestle. The story in German press discussed the Twitter-wall, but no-one mentioned Greenpeace: this was very successful. They've reached 1m people via these tweets.

Gorleben campaign, where documents concerning the siting of a nuclear waste storage facility in Germany have been digitised, placed online, and made searchable.