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    Impact of Social Media in the Presidential elections and why Blockchain technology is the key to preserve our democracy

    September 2020

    The political role of social media in American politics was established during the 2008 presidential election. The Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama was the first to use the Internet to mobilize supporters, advertise and communicate with individuals in a manner that had been difficult in previous elections. Nearly three quarters of internet users went online to learn about the candidates in the election; this is equal to 55% of the adult population. It used social media to make personalized appeals to voters that were supported by data analytics that driven targeted messaging. Voters generated and promoted candidate messages without any structured campaign groups or political parties working through them1. The most famous viral videos in the 2008 campaign BarelyPolitical.com’s “Obama Girl” and William’s “Yes, We Can,” were produced independently and attracted around 14.5 Mn of viewers. Obama led McCain supporters in all categories of political online activism, which some find to be a significant factor in his win2. Going forward, campaigns including Obama’s 2012 committee work hard to curtail outside efforts and exert more control over the campaign-media process.

    Social media is widely used in American countries to campaign, share news and connect with prospective voters. In the 2008 presidential election, Barack Obama used social media to advertise and communicate with individuals. The most famous viral videos in the 2008 campaign “Obama Girl” and “Yes, We Can,” were a significant factor in his win. He embraces the power of social media to build a brand of his own. He had gone from a relatively political unknown to an elected official. The whole landscape of political campaigning has changed with the use of grassroots fundraising, social media expertise and viral sensitivities used to defeat more prominently known candidates. The Social media platform also played a large role in gathering young voters for the 2016 election. Both the presidential and congressional candidates have extensively used the social media platform for political campaigns. Facebook ad campaign and active tweets in Twitter helped Donald Trump to gain more popularity which helped him to win election. The use of Twitter as a forum for connecting with the people with tweets and to get peoples response in much numbers helped him in shaping his ideas and views. In addition, the Russian government intervened to harm Hillary Clinton’s campaign by promoting Donald Trump ‘s candidacy through social media platforms.

    On Facebook, Clinton had linked most of her posts to official campaign communications and where to vote, but on the other hand Trump chose to link to different news media in his posts. On Twitter, Trump stands out for retweeting ordinary people more often than Clinton or Sanders. In terms of videos, Trump also used these to his advantage and posted videos in about one-in-ten of his social media posts. Clinton only used video in about a quarter of her posts3. Donald Trump turned his well-known chant “lock her up” into a trending hashtag and Hillary Clinton and her supporters fired back by declaring #ImWithHer.

    Within their Facebook posts, the candidates included external links, 30% of Clinton’s posts on Facebook included links, as did 32% of Sanders’ posts and 30% of Trump’s posts, Clinton’s and Sanders’ s Facebook feeds most often linked to their own official campaign websites, social media account, links to campaign events, videos and donation pages. Links to news media outlets were considerably less common for these two Democratic candidates. On the other hand, Trump’s Facebook posts were more frequently pointed readers to news media, 78% of his posts with links directed followers to articles from large national or international media organizations such as Fox News and the Daily Mail. Trump’s unique engagement with the public on Twitter stands apart not just from the other 2016 candidates but also from past presidential campaigns.

    As per the research, in January 2016, 44% of the U.S. indicated that they had heard about the 2016 presidential election from social media in the past week, outperforming all local and national print newspapers. In fact, as of July, 24% report they have turned to Donald Trump’s or Hillary Clinton’s social media posts for news and election information more than those who turn to any of the candidates’ websites or emails combined (15%)4.

    In the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the Russian government intervened with the aims of harming Hillary Clinton ‘s campaign, promoting Donald Trump ‘s candidacy, and growing political and social unrest in the United States. Before the 2016 election, media outlets speculated on Trump’s alleged relationship with Vladimir Putin and the possible involvement of Russia in the U.S. presidential election. Soon the U.S. Intelligence Community substantiated some of the allegations and concluded that the Russian government had been trying to tamper with the campaign of Hillary Clinton. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reported on October7, 2016 that the Russian government has hacked into U.S. email servers and leaked its contents. Furthermore, National Intelligence Director James Clapper testified on January 6, 2017 that Russia has been spreading fake news stories on social media. ODNI issued a study alleging that President Putin has directed a campaign of coercion to vilify Hillary Clinton.

    Blockchain is a distributed ledger technology that allows data to be stored globally on thousands of servers while allowing anyone on the network to see their input in almost real-time. That makes it hard for one user to gain control of the network. Blockchain Technology’s further advantage is its decentralized and distributed ledger that maintains a shared list of records. These records are referred as blocks, and each encrypted block of code contains the history of each block that came before it with transaction data up to the second. Blockchain technology enables individuals to have more privacy when using Internet-based technology.

    Over the past year Blockchain has become increasingly popular. In recent months, Facebook has been very busy digging into and deleting fake accounts which have been spreading false news for many years now. If a user does not have control over his / her own data, data can enter third parties. Every post, like, or share creates a behavioral profile of the user. According to your choice, this profile is the reason you get news and advertising. Hacking personal information and selling it to other parties are the issues that social media sector is facing nowadays. Blockchain distributed ledger system can function in the first place to prevent any of this by verifying identity, verifying reported information and data etc. There are applications with blockchain which allow users to monitor their data. We can choose who sees the details and how much. Skycoin is a great example of how users can control their information. Each application includes access permissions to the data, which keeps user information secure. The technology will help users who share with advertisers charge a fee for their details. One can then pick the right people to access the right data5.
    Crowdfunding is one of the activities that happens through social media platforms. The money is also raised for charities. The Blockchain helps the crowdfunding as private, transparent, and faster. Blockchain technology makes investors feel secure and works against money laundering too. Social networks allowed by blockchain make it easier for investors to finance crowds. Peers can track contracts, accept payments and verify users without taking any extreme measures6.

    Blockchain technology with its cryptographic techniques will ensure digital information comes from a trustworthy, accountable source. Essentially, voters can only consume media marked with a specific cryptographic identifier which can show without a doubt that the media originated when cross-referenced with permanent records on a blockchain. Blockchain distributed ledger system can help in verifying identity, verifying reported information and data authenticity, etc. Media would be considered less trustworthy without an identifier. One of the more interesting potential uses of Blockchain may be counterfeiting fake news7. High levels of personal data protection and the disruptive ads are the reason the blockchain technology is blowing up over social media. Because of its decentralized existence, social media with blockchain allow for end-to-end encryption for any contact. As a result, by using these networks consumers have more anonymity, and a data breach is nearly impossible8.

    The last U.S. presidential election saw a spike in targeted misleading advertising on websites such as Facebook and Twitter used to sway the sentiments and opinions of the electorate. The platforms’ attempts to fix this problem have centered around partnerships with independent fact checkers, but the blockchain offers a potential solution that doesn’t require third parties. Ethereum blockchain, offer promising solutions to verifying the authenticity of user generated videos9.

    1 Source: https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/07/15/about-one-in-five-adult-twitter-users-in-the-u-s-follow-trump/
    2 Source: https://www.bbvaopenmind.com/en/articles/the-past-decade-and-future-of-political-media-the-ascendance-of-social-media/
    3 Source: https://www.authoritylabs.com/election-2016-the-role-social-media-played-in-the-elections/
    4 Source: https://www.journalism.org/2016/07/18/candidates-differ-in-their-use-of-social-media-to-connect-with-the-public/
    5 Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/andrewarnold/2018/05/29/how-social-media-can-benefit-from-blockchain-technology/#1d478f731018
    6 Source: https://www.goodworklabs.com/blockchain-technology-in-social-media/
    7 Source: https://www.cbinsights.com/research/report/blockchain-election-security/
    8 Source: https://www.comparethecloud.net/articles/the-link-between-blockchain-technology-and-social-media/
    9 Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/valleyvoices/2018/02/28/how-the-blockchain-can-solve-social-medias-biggest-problems/#61cf23f427cb