Twitter is in some hot water in California, after the Center for Governmental Studies realized the popular social networking site was suggesting members of the Democratic Party, who are expected to run for California’s governor next year, over the Republican Party candidates. When someone signs up for Twitter, the company suggests certain celebrities, politicians and other high profiled citizens for new users to follow. A random list of 20 out of the 500 high profiled users is shown and users can choose to follow as many or as few of those recommendations.
Some of those 500 high profiled recommended users include San Fransisco mayor Gavin Newsom, and California Attorney General Jerry Brown, who both have either announced or expressed interest in running for California Governor next year on the Democratic ticket. The two, both have a huge following, as Newsom has over 1.2 million followers, while Brown has close to 966,000 followers. Meg Whitman, Steve Poizner, and Tom Campbell who are all plan on running for governor on the Republican ticket are not suggested users and all have under 4,500 followers.
Bob Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies, and also an independent nonpartisan said to the New York Times, ”It’s a dumb move. Somebody should have been thinking that it’s pretty obvious you don’t put just the Democrats on it.”
However, Twitter is fighting back. Jenna Sampson, Twitter spokeswoman told The Associated Press in an e-mail that the suggested user list is based on certain users ”who show that they provide value by posting often and engaging with their followers.” That list does in fact include several Republicans, such as current California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Arizona Senator & former Presidential candidate John McCain.
However, social media in general seems to have played some part in recent elections as we saw last year, in the 2008 Presidential Election. Both President Obama and John McCain had expressed interest and reached out to the social networking communities. Obama didn’t just lead by working harder at continuously reaching out to the social media world by creating accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, but he also has a much larger following than McCain. At midnight right after election day, Obama had nearly 506,000 followers on Twitter, while McCain had a measly 44,800 followers. McCain didn’t use his Twitter page to campaign as much as Obama did, but he was a suggested user at the time and both had linked their social networking profiles on their campaign homepages.
Last week at the Web 2.0 Summit, Twitter chief executive Evan Williams had said the company is currently working on ending the suggested users list and replacing it with a feature called Lists, where current users can recommend and separate users into different categories.
“‘The suggested user list has been controversial for a while,” said Williams, who added “I desperately want to kill it or evolve it.”