IS 490 Social Media Teaching Day


Technology Firms Shape Political Communication: The Work of Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, and Google With Campaigns During the 2016 U.S. Presidential Cycle PDF

Additional Resources

Academic Articles

A 61-Million-Person Experiment in Social Influence and Political Mobilization (2012)  PDF

Psychological targeting as an effective approach to digital mass persuasion (2017) PDF

News Articles

Facebook Tinkers with Users’ Emotions in News Feed Experiment, Stirring Outcry (2014)
– or – (probably paywalled)

Here’s How Facebook Actually Won Trump the Presidency (2016)

Facebook, Elections and Political Speech (By Nick Clegg, VP of Global Affairs and Communications, September 2019)


A Knee-Jerk Reaction That Could Hand Trump The Election

Social Media links

Twitter thread by Sarah Danner Dukic on how social media metadata is used to influence people’s behavior


Channel 4 (UK) investigation/video series on Cambridge Analytica: Data, Democracy and Dirty Tricks

Show during class

Channel 4 Series

Part Two. “Cambridge Analytica Uncovered: Secret filming reveals election tricks.” YouTube, March 19, 2018

Key Part of the video:

Part Three: Cambridge Analytica Uncovered: Secret filming reveals election tricks

In this third part of Channel 4 News’s investigative report on Cambridge Analytica, CEO Alexander Nix discusses how the company was responsible for the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president. “We did all the research, all the data, all the analytics, all the targeting, we ran all the digital campaign, the television campaign,” Nix says, “and our data informed all the strategy.”

The Clickbait Coach (CNN special report on a little town in Macedonia)

The Twitter Presidency

Interesting to me from several angles: As information, as design, and as (journalistic) rhetoric

Fake News Generators

Political advertising on social media

Facebook Ad Library

Facebook Ad Library Report (an interface pulling data from the Facebook Ad Library)

Facebook Political Ad Collector (ProPublica project)

Google Weighs Changes to Political Ad Policy

Nice People Doing Nice Things (and Good Luck!)

As the internet turns 50, we must protect it as a force for good

Marking the anniversary, our founder and inventor of the web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, said….

Principles for a Contract for the Web

The web was designed to bring people together and make knowledge freely available. Everyone has a role to play to ensure the web serves humanity. By committing to the following principles, governments, companies and citizens around the world can help protect the open web as a public good and a basic right for everyone.

My New Social Network – Jimmy Wales

Civic – a free, open and decentralized social platform

We Need a PBS for Social Media

First Draft News (great research resource on journalism and social media)

My Zotero Library

Reading Questions


  1. I found the authors’ explanations of Facebook, Twitter, and Google to be reasonable and understandable. But does Microsoft really have that big of a poll in this discussion?
  2. The authors suggest that there is a “fundamental dependence” placed on these digital technologies, and the communication/resources they provide. But do you think this is true? Are politicians dependent on digital technologies for distribution, or are they more supplemental?


  1. In this post Trump world, how will this Twitter political ad ban affect the 2020 election?
  2. Will Twitter be able to control the use of powerful politicians like Trump (and others, it’s not just him) paying for people to spam certain posts with retweets and likes to make them as visible as an ad would have been?


  1. There is a growing movement to nationalize some of these technology firms. How would social media as a public utility affect this kind of political communication? Would it have an effect at all?
  2. On page 159, Kreiss explains how these firms being U.S. based and subject to U.S. regulation and taxation incentivizes these firms to play a larger role in U.S. politics than in other countries. Is this true? Why wouldn’t these firms seek the increased revenue and influence from similar political participation in other countries?


  1. Can be comparable digital media companies to traditional mass media? Can tech companies be also strictly regularized as traditional media?
  2. Even if these companies have resources and teams for the different political proposals, can they be considered as fair players?


“During its inception, the internet was cherished because it was ‘flat’. There was no hierarchy and it was decentralized. However, with time all of those qualities have been severely tainted.”

  1. Why does Google get off so easy in these conversations when it is as guilty as others?
  2. Why can’t we just get rid of the recommendation algorithm (which is the villain in ALL of this) and go back to the good old days of a temporal feed?


  1. On page 158, Kreiss and McGregor note, “… the affordances of platforms can change in the middle of an electoral cycle, without warning or transparency, forcing campaigns to adapt on the fly.” How might constant updates of features on Facebook, for example, compromise campaigns? What could be done to ensure said campaigns are as unscathed as possible?
  2. Google tends to hire people on their politics and elections teams based on their previous experience in the political field (p. 162). How might someone hoping to join such teams gain experience if they have little to none?