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Would Twitter Make President Obama 'Follow' the Tea Party If the Price Is Right? 121

theodp (442580) writes Giving others the impression that individuals support something that they actually don't could get you fined and placed under house arrest. But if you're Twitter, it could boost your bottom line. Gigaom's Carmel DeAmicis reports that brands pay Twitter to falsely appear in your following list, an advertising technique brought to light by William Shatner after he saw that 'MasterCard' appeared in his following list despite the fact that he didn't follow it. "By making it look like someone follows an account that they don't," writes DeAmicis, "it sends a false signal that said user cares about that brand. Although the brands are marked as 'promoted,' it's not necessarily clear that the user in question doesn't actually follow the brand. There's ethical considerations to be had. Hypothetical examples: What if you're vegan and don't want people to think you're following Burger King? Or you're the CEO of Visa and don't want people thinking you're following MasterCard? Or you're a pro-life activist and don't want people thinking you're following Planned Parenthood?" Or, if you're @BarackObama and don't want people to think you're following @TPPatriots!
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Would Twitter Make President Obama 'Follow' the Tea Party If the Price Is Right?

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  • frickin weasels at Twitter... should be blocking and reporting them, but block is OK for now.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      I blocked Twitter long ago. But who would I report them to? The Better Business Bureau? ICANN?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by flyneye ( 84093 )

      Yeah, but Obama would still feed his mother a dead-rat sandwich, if he thought it would increase his popularity.

    • not for nothing, but since when did "following" X, mean I support "X"? I follow all sorts of people brands, some i support, some i dont, but i want to keep tabs on them.
  • by BarbaraHudson ( 3785311 ) <barbarahudson@gm a i l.com> on Thursday January 01, 2015 @02:45PM (#48712621) Journal
    That's the new internet - anything for a buck. Lying, cheating, invading your privacy, not cleaning up the messes they've already started, only apologizing when they get caught (if then). You and I would be in jail if we did half what they do, and yet, because investors know they will get away with it, they keep throwing money at the worst offenders.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      ...anything for a buck. Lying, cheating, invading your privacy,...

      That's been the way of business since people started doing business.

      Welcome to civilizations!

    • Lying, cheating, invading your privacy, not cleaning up the messes they've already started, only apologizing when they get caught

      Well, what did we expect? With most websites living off the fictive 'value' of advertising, how can we expect anything other than exactly this? Advertisers have always done this - just look around in the world of cosmetics and 'beauty products' with their grotesque, blatant lies; the most hilarious being L'Oreal's "Inspired by Gene Science", but there are others - such as stating that a product is '20% fat-free' (ie 80% fat) or labeling a type of olive oil as 'light' in the hope that people are stupid enoug

  • by ITRambo ( 1467509 ) on Thursday January 01, 2015 @02:49PM (#48712639)
    Obama, being a politician, would "follow" anybody on Twitter, without complaint, for a large enough donation to his or his wife's causes.
    • He likely already has straw accounts following it anyways. It's an easy way to keep tabs on opposition and it doesn't require abuses of government power.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 01, 2015 @02:50PM (#48712649)

    This two kingdoms version of america you all seem to live is absolutely retarded. The president should be listening to what his political adversaries are saying.

    • by ATMAvatar ( 648864 ) on Thursday January 01, 2015 @03:01PM (#48712705) Journal
      The interesting thing is that the two kingdoms which really exist are far different from those which people perceive. Democrats and Republicans both serve the same kingdom, while most of the public lives under the other.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Oh please, just stop it. They are different political parties for a reason. Overstating that they are the same is about as useful as overstating that they are both interested in politics.

        Either learn the differences or shut up. I'm sick of people spewing that there is no choice, there is. The choices might not split down the lines you want. You might have a position that no candidate is willing to promote. It's nearly impossible to get one person to embody everything you might want. But it is your un

        • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 01, 2015 @04:09PM (#48712967)

          They are? OK, please answer for me:

          1. Which party wants to decrease corporate money in politics?
          2. Which party is for decreasing the length of copyright?
          3. Which party supports jail time for fraudulent bankers?
          4. Which party would increase the penalty for crimes committed by corporations, instead of the current toothless fees we currently have?
          5. Which party is for reducing our illegal surveillance both here and abroad?
          6. Which party is for eliminating the NSA?

          I mean, sure, they're different on a bunch of minor crap no one (should) care about, but when it comes to major issues, they're identical.

          • by Okian Warrior ( 537106 ) on Thursday January 01, 2015 @04:44PM (#48713121) Homepage Journal

            They are? OK, please answer for me:

            1. Which party wants to decrease corporate money in politics?
            2. Which party is for decreasing the length of copyright?
            3. Which party supports jail time for fraudulent bankers?
            4. Which party would increase the penalty for crimes committed by corporations, instead of the current toothless fees we currently have?
            5. Which party is for reducing our illegal surveillance both here and abroad?
            6. Which party is for eliminating the NSA?

            I mean, sure, they're different on a bunch of minor crap no one (should) care about, but when it comes to major issues, they're identical.

            I'm all for dividing good from evil, but I'm also a rationalist: I work from evidence, not hearsay. Please answer for me:

            1. Which party decreased corporate money in politics?
            2. Which party decreased the length of copyright?
            3. Which party put fraudulent bankers in jail?
            4. Which party increased the penalty for crimes committed by corporations?
            5. Which party reduced our illegal surveillance both here and abroad?
            6. Which party curtailed the NSA?

            Democrats bemoan those nasty republicans for blocking all attempts at making a better world, but they have not blocked any of the bad stuff that makes this a worse world.

            Rhetoric is useless, ignore what they say. Consider what they do

          • by readin ( 838620 )

            They are? OK, please answer for me:

            1. Which party wants to decrease corporate money in politics? 2. Which party is for decreasing the length of copyright? 3. Which party supports jail time for fraudulent bankers? 4. Which party would increase the penalty for crimes committed by corporations, instead of the current toothless fees we currently have? 5. Which party is for reducing our illegal surveillance both here and abroad? 6. Which party is for eliminating the NSA?

            I mean, sure, they're different on a bunch of minor crap no one (should) care about, but when it comes to major issues, they're identical.

            And let's not forget:


            7. Which party is for enforcing immigration laws?
            8. Which party is for ending corporate welfare?
            9. Which party is for limiting the role of the federal government in our personal lives (including when we're working)?
            10. Which party is for limiting the rolling back regulations that keep small companies from growing?
            11. Which party is for shrinking government spending (and thus giving us more free time so less of our economic output has to be diverted to government functions)?

            • I don't know, but I'll take a guess.

              1. 1. Every party except Republicans
              2. 2. Pirate Party
              3. 3. Every party except Republicans and Democrats
              4. 4. Another punishment question? Dude, expand #3 to include more than banksters, and this is unnecessary.
              5. 5. None, we're on our own for that. See #6.
              6. 6. The party of Wikileaks and Snowden.
              7. 7. Neither Republican nor Democrat, though the Republicans like to throw raw meat to the people who want a big wall and massive army of border guards to patrol it, as if that would solv
              • by itzly ( 3699663 )
                You keep talking about "3rd parties", but there are only two.
              • by readin ( 838620 )

                I don't know, but I'll take a guess.

                1. 7. Neither Republican nor Democrat, though the Republicans like to throw raw meat to the people who want a big wall and massive army of border guards to patrol it, as if that would solve anything. Probably only 1 or 2 small parties. It's not a big issue. And what about reform of immigration laws, why only ask about enforcement?

                It's a big issue for a lot of people - but generally the kind of people who work and don't have a lot of spare time to get out and protest. As for "reform", enforcement is a major part of the reform - in fact it is the reform that makes all other reforms possible. But to be comprehensive enforcement has to come first before any other reforms are passed because we know from history and from the behavior of current leaders that a deal won't be honored by those who oppose enforcement. In fact we already did

          • 1) yeah, it'd be nice
            2) i don't really see the point, copyright isn't a patent, it's the cherry on top, it isn't the cake.
            3) if they had a single person to string up, they'd have strung him up, but you're looking at a clusterfuck for 2008, and we already do it when its on a smaller scale.
            4) do we want to encourage or discourage economic activity in this country.
            5) here i'd support, abroad i'd say spy the hell out of them
            6) i don't support this.

            Education, taxation and the role of government in health care...

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Oh please, just stop it. There are only two parties for a reason. Overstating their differences is about as useful as overstating the differences between King Soopers and Safeway.

          By ensuring that any vote for an independent party is a wasted vote, each party minimizes its competition for power, thus limiting how much of the people's will it must honor. The differences that exist force American voters to polarize on two extremes of civil and economic policy, both of which lack the sort of reasonable balan

        • they call them snake oil salesmen or messiahs :)

          one of them lies to you, the other makes you lie to yourself.

    • >. Re:Why shouldnt Barack Obama follow the Tea Party?

      Because he has the IRS to do that for him?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    if yes: leave twitter if you don't like it

    if no: leave twitter because they're deceiving bastards

  • If Twitter is being paid to promote a brand through my appearing to follow it, they're having me act as a spokesman aren't they? If so, where's my fee? I think 10% of the gross that Twitter receives is fair.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 01, 2015 @02:57PM (#48712681)

    Facebook, Twitter, etc. Users are their products and their power. Stop giving them power, unsubscribe today.

    • Just stop using them, huh? Sure, as soon as I learn of some alternatives. I mean, to replace Google for searching, there's DuckDuckGo, though they aren't quite all I could desire in a search engine either. Could replace Slashdot with SoylentNews or maybe reddit. I'm okay with Wikipedia and relatives, don't feel they need replacing. But what is there to replace Facebook? Twitter? Skype? Ebay? Amazon? NewEgg may be making a bid to compete with Amazon. As for Ebay, there's what, Craigslist? I looke
  • by davydagger ( 2566757 ) on Thursday January 01, 2015 @03:01PM (#48712701)
    Its been said that half the value of the internet is in data mined from consumers? What do companies do with this data? They use it to target advertisements to you. Of course you assume its going to be things like soap, movies, cars and other stuff you actually want to buy. And some of it is.

    But the real money is in "guerilla marketing", pretending to be normal people in order to change your opinion. They engage in all kind of anti-social activities like spreading rumors against resistors, as well as threats and cyberbullying people resistant to their marketing. They are also the ones generating the vast amount of black propaganda around the election proccess and are trying to get people amenible to seeing their neighbors as the enemy.

    • Your twitter feed is now following the American Nazi Party, and NAMBLA is topping the list of your FaceBook "Likes" shared with your friends and family.

  • by grahammm ( 9083 ) <graham@gmurray.org.uk> on Thursday January 01, 2015 @03:03PM (#48712713)

    Just because you follow something on Twitter or Facebook does not mean you agree with or support it. Surely it makes sense to also follow the enemy/opposition/competition just to get more of an insight into what they are doing. So, it would make sense for Obama and/or his staff to follow the Tea Party.

    • by Firethorn ( 177587 ) on Thursday January 01, 2015 @03:28PM (#48712839) Homepage Journal

      Agreed. My first thought was the old saying 'keep your friends close, and your enemies closer'.

      I monitor several gun opposition groups just so I know what they're up to in order to better oppose them. I'm sure they do the same to us. I wouldn't be surprised as a result that I'm counted as a 'member' in some circles.

      Of course, then there's the militias where it turns out over half the 'members' are undercover officers....

    • That's true I guess, but if the President made a public statement that "I don't even want to know about the junk policies of the tea party, I don't give them the time of day", then he is seen to be following them on twitter, then he would look like he is contradicting himself, which wouldn't be a good thing.

  • Lets consider some common terms.

    "Consumer"
    "Brand Loyalty"

    People are consistently manipulated via the media, their buying choices, their humor, their self identification, their politics, think about an environment where you are not exposed to some sort of advertising, propaganda, or other negative stimulus.

    Do you have an environment like that?
    We are drowning in a sea of media manipulation, and most can't see it as they have grown up with it.

  • "Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer."
  • by Art Challenor ( 2621733 ) on Thursday January 01, 2015 @03:24PM (#48712817)
    If you're pro-life, why would you not follow Planned Parenthood? Most of what they do is preventative health care for poor women who have no other access to such services - life saving proceedures like mamograms. Or are we talking the crowd that supports life only until birth - like the "pro-life" governors who refused the affordable care act medicaid expansion killing thousands of post-partum people a year?
    • by Kohath ( 38547 )

      Planned Parenthood does not perform mammograms [washingtonpost.com]. (Unless they started doing it since late-2012.)

    • "I believe that now, immediately, there should be national sterilization for certain dysgenic types of our population who are being encouraged to breed and would die out were the government not feeding them."

      -- Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood

      • Lovely strawman, I tip my hat to you. Quoting a line from an era when eugenics was considered good science and not following up with her change of stance when the whole eugenics crap was discredited following WW2.

        I've said it many times over, people are allowed to change their minds when new knowledge comes to light and old stances should not be commented on in solo when their enlightened stance has replaced the old one. It's bad science and bad argument.

  • Untrue; it was a bug (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bogtha ( 906264 ) on Thursday January 01, 2015 @03:27PM (#48712827)

    Gigaom's Carmel DeAmicis reports that brands pay Twitter to falsely appear in your following list

    This isn't true. This was a bug that has already been fixed [ycombinator.com].

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Of course it was ...
  • Giving others the impression that individuals support something that they actually don't could get you fined and placed under house arrest.

    What he did wasn't "giving an impression". It was fraud, plain and simple. The court certainly thought so.

    There's ethical considerations to be had.

    Yes, there certainly are. But the REAL ethical consideration is whether this constitutes fraud. Again the issue is plain and simple. It might not be simple to decide, but the nature of the actual question here is black and white.

    All in all, I think it's an interesting question, but it is being a bit obfuscated by the way it was presented here.

    • I am going to amend my own post here.

      I suppose there IS another question, but I'm not sure what it is. The fraud part seems clear, but what about misrepresentation and how that can affect one's perceived character? It's not libel... I think. So just what is it?

      It is very unlikely that the latter is a "new" issue. I'm just wondering what label it goes under. Hollywood stars and other rich people have sued over having their "personal brand" usurped before. But if they have one, then so should everyone e
  • by theodp ( 442580 ) on Thursday January 01, 2015 @03:28PM (#48712841)

    Here's Why We Have a Lawless Gotcha Capitalism Economy [moneytalksnews.com]: "Gotcha Capitalism rewards bad behavior. It turns the normal reward function of capitalism on its head. Instead of good companies with good products and creative innovation rising to the top, we have companies that refine their gotcha mechanisms rising to the top. They create just enough surprise to walk the thin line of the law...or slip over it, but not enough to do something that might actually have a material impact on the bottom line. If you like my line of thinking, I've written an entire book about this - you can buy it here. But for now, know this: Until bad behavior starts resulting in material impact, companies won't stop. And we'll remain stuck in the sucker economy."

  • But Spock,
    Why...
    am I...
    following MasterCard...
    on Twitter...
    if I...
    didn't...
    add them?

    *stares dramatically at the camera, with dramatic background music*

    [fade to commercial break]
  • The definition of "the price is right" implies that they would.

    I suppose the interesting part is that the price is likely not terribly high.

  • Well if we take the time to read just some of people in Barack Obama's 646k twitter subscription https://twitter.com/BarackObam... [twitter.com] We will notice that this list includes Dmitry Medvedev, Prime Mister of Russia. https://twitter.com/MedvedevRu... [twitter.com] Vladimir Putin on the other hand, only follows 9 people, all heads of state, but doesn't follow Barack Obama https://twitter.com/PutinRF_En... [twitter.com]
  • by Kohath ( 38547 ) on Thursday January 01, 2015 @03:58PM (#48712929)

    The President should definitely listen to the Tea Party. He's supposed to be the President of everyone in the US, not just another partisan asshole.

    He says he is open to ideas from anyone. As President, that is the correct attitude for him to have.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The President should definitely listen to the Tea Party. He's supposed to be the President of everyone in the US, not just another partisan asshole.

      He says he is open to ideas from anyone. As President, that is the correct attitude for him to have.

      Should Obama be forced to listen to the KKK? He is their President, too.

      • by Kohath ( 38547 )

        Why not? Who does "listening" harm? What would be the specific benefit from not listening? Do you have a plan of action for living together peacefully in a civil society that doesn't involve "listening"? If so, please describe this plan.

  • by vivaoporto ( 1064484 ) on Thursday January 01, 2015 @05:39PM (#48713423)
    In a post on a similar article posted on the Hacker News a twitter employee explains [ycombinator.com] that it was a bug in an unrelated (but, IMO, equally damning) advertisement feature on their platform.

    According to him it was supposed to bump the advertised pages in the "following" list of their followers to the top. In order to do so it required removing it from the current position and reinserting at the top, as (again, according to him) the "following list" is not kept whole in whatever data structure it is stored.

    I say equally damning because it reinforces the idea (common in here, not so common out there) that the user is not actually the customer but the product to be sold and "monetized" the harder it can be done without scaring him out.

    This should be the definite proof of that (both the bugged and the intended feature) but people will happily trade their social influence for an easy to access technological soapbox.

    No judgement being passed or merit being discussed on this post, just an observation of the current standing of the whole situation.
  • I con't see where you can deduce much from who someone follows, since after all the old adage goes "Keeps your friends close and your enemies closer".

    • Welcome to Big Data driven marketing. It doesn't matter if correlation doesn't prove causation. It only matters that it does, often enough. If one thing doesn't mean another it doesn't matter to them, as long as it means it often enough. Machine learning plus crowd thinking means there is no room for indecipherable incongruity. This is the hubris of Big Data. God help the unlovable, undatable, unemployable, weirdos, reformers, artists, revolutionaries, poets and perverts for the algorithm will never be thei

      • I really like the visual I get thinking of "Often Enough!" written on a huge banner flying over a Big Data army...

  • Sure, you get page hits, but that is not the path to "news that matters".

    Fuckwits ... can't you all sit around and circle-jerk instead of posting crap like this ?

  • ...is so misleading, because Barack Obama is the master of collecting fake followers.
  • At least the phone version, no question of it - it's done it to me within days of having the Android app installed, not an ad, DEFINITELY an actual follow of someone.

    This has occurred to me at least 5 times now, I've stopped using the Android app, I'm sick of it.

  • I think twitter is being pretty transparent in labeling these "promoted" accounts, with a little yellow flag and everything. It's an advertisement. If celebrities or other twitter users don't like it, they're free to close their twitter accounts. The only way twitter is going to change the policy is if enough people do get turned off by it, that it effects their traffic. Twitter and facebook are really harming their longevity by being so intrusive with their advertising policies.
  • If your livelihood can be jeopardized by who you "follow" or "like" then maybe we have placed far too much weight in social media.

    If the CEO of PepsiCo follows Coke will it negatively affect Pepsi in some way? I just don't see it.

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