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How campaigns cope with avalanches of social media criticism

Facebook comments left on Rick Perry's profile.
Facebook comments left on Rick Perry's profile.

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Last week, the Texas government cut health care clinics affiliated with abortion providers from the state’s Medicaid Women’s Health program. As a result, the White House stripped the program of all its federal funding.

The Texas Medicaid Women’s Health program encompasses cancer screenings, birth control and HIV testing for women who earn less than 20,000, so about 120,000 in the state. Rick Perry, a supporter of the new Texas law, stated he would not be deterred by the Obama administrations move and would find a way to replace the $30 million with state funds.

However, Texas’s policy change didn’t just make governmental waves, it made digital waves too. After the announcement, Rick Perry’s Facebook profile blew up with many comments, mostly from women, which sarcastically referred to Perry as an expert on women’s health and asked him questions. They ranged from the purely sarcastic to the explicitly graphic, but they all represent a manifestation that several members of Facebook find fault with the governor’s position.

In Kansas and Virginia, state officials have also had their Facebook profiles “sarcasm bombed” after pushing for legislation that limits access to abortion. Rick Perry’s office has been routinely scrubbing the page of such statements, but people are grabbing screenshots and uploading them to their own pages, which the Perry administration has no control over. Governmental figures have never had to deal with this kind of media before, and the situation shines light on the potential pitfalls and perils of engaging in new technologies.

How should candidates handle such situations? Is it better to control your image by deleting and censorship, or to simply let it all hang out? Besides, people are going to see it one way or another, maybe it’s best to own it.


To our listeners, have you ever engaged in this type of commenting on a politician’s page? Did you do it just to let off steam, or to try and make your voice heard in a meaningful way? Did it work? Will you keep doing it?


Andrew Rasiej, Founder, Personal Democracy Media – at the intersection of politics and technology

Meredith Turney, Social and New Media Political Consultant based in Austin; Contributor to California’s influential political blog, the Flash Report.