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November 06, 2012

TV Networks Warned against Result Leaks via Social Media During Election

By Ed Silverstein, TMCnet Contributor

Twitter (News - Alert) and other forms of social media continue to be a key way of following the Presidential election – and TV networks are warning their employees not to tweet confidential data too soon.

Several TV networks are concerned that exit polls could be released on Twitter or Facebook (News - Alert) before the polls close today, leading to an impact on the election, such as residents not bothering to vote.

“The major TV news networks agreed to shield early exit poll data suggesting who is leading in a state until the state's polls close,” Reuters reported. “That means no tweeting exit polls, posting on Facebook, or re-tweeting figures reported by others.”

"We will not either project or characterize a race until all the polls are scheduled to have closed in that state," Sheldon Gawiser, director of elections for NBC News, added in a statement to Reuters (News - Alert).

This year, the race between President Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney is particularly close. Exit polls are likely being done in key states such as Ohio, Virginia and Florida.

Jeff Berkowitz, a Republican who runs Berkowitz Public Affairs, says the release of exit polls could keep people from voting.

"For somebody who's got seven things on their list to do that day, and if they're already being told the election is over, are they really going to prioritize voting over the other six?" he asked in a statement to Reuters.

Exit poll data is collected by several firms, most notably Edison Media Research. It involves a consortium of ABC, Fox, CNN, NBC, CBS and The Associated Press (News - Alert). Other firms include Ipsos, which works with Reuters.

The Drudge Report has made a name for itself in the past for posting some early voting results, such as in the 2004 Presidential race.

In addition, with the growth in social media, any data which leaked into social media too early would likely spread very quickly, Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Pew (News - Alert) Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism, told Reuters.

In a related topic, the 2012 Presidential election also shows how candidates are increasingly using social media to reach voters with their messages.

In fact, 51 percent of voters were estimated to have learned about candidates via social media, according to The Drum. This compares to 22 percent learning about candidates via social media in the 2008 Presidential race.

A Pew Research Center study showed that 24 percent of Romney’s and 19 percent of Obama’s posts during a recent two weeks were about the economy, The Drum reported.

Also, the study showed that in a recent period Obama placed 404 posts on Twitter, 106 blogs and 21 YouTube videos. Romney placed 16 Twitter posts, 55 blogs and 10 YouTube videos. In addition, Obama got more response from the public, with 150,106 retweets, compared to Romney’s 8,601.

Romney had a higher engagement, however, with 537.5 retweets per individual tweet, the study adds.

“Obviously, both campaigns are very interested at the presidential level in using new technologies to try to understand voters, try to appeal to voters, try to get people to talk to their friends about the campaigns,” The Drum reported.

After the election, analysts will likely study the impact of social media on voting behavior.

"We have yet to see how social media will shape the actual outcomes of this year's election, but at least it is obvious that both candidates and citizens are actively engaging in use of social media in this election, even to a greater extent than what we witnessed during the 2008 election," J. Roselyn Lee, assistant professor in the Ohio State University School of Communication,  told The Lantern, a student-run daily newspaper at the Ohio State campus, according to TMCnet.

Edited by Braden Becker
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