Campaign Trail

Candidates use YouTube to rally, not persuade

Molly Wood Mar 20, 2012

We all know that political campaigns are expensive. One of the areas often mentioned as the most pricy is TV advertising. Getting a spot, or a barrage of spots, in a battleground TV market can mean a huge hit to the candidate’s bank account. That’s one of the reasons YouTube is proving to increasingly influential in any campaign. Make a spot on YouTube and it can be up and running within minutes and pretty much for free. Granted, no political ad is ever likely to reach the popular heights of “Charlie Bit My Finger,” but the candidates can dream.

Rob Salmond, who teaches political science at the University of Michigan, has been studying how YouTube is being handled by political candidates. He says YouTube videos differ from political ads in a couple of crucial ways. “YouTube ads are generally aimed at highly politicized people, usually your own supporters,” he says. “The second difference is YouTube videos are free to broadcast, and that allows people to make much more detailed videos than they would on television, partly because there’s no time limit.”

Salmond’s paper on the subject indicates that the videos you see on a computer screen are likely to be more positive and friendly than the attack ads you’d see on television. “Often, the idea behind many YouTube videos is to try to get someone who supports your campaign to do something beyond simply voting for it,” says Salmond. “That is, to either convince their friends to vote for their candidate, or you can try and convince someone to take a step from being a supporter to being an activist.”

Turning from politics to security. Personally, I never expected to be using passwords after I was 8 years old and it was a way to stop girls (you’ll just have to imagine that S at the end of “girls” being painted on backwards) from getting into a treehouse. Still, passwords are the foundation of online security. Recently, DARPA, a research office of the Defense Department, said we need a better system. Many researchers have been working on other options for some time.

Salvatore Stolfo is with Columbia University’s school of engineering and applied science. He offers the idea of a behavioral model where snoopers get booted out. “If someone gets access to your machine by stealing your password,” he says, “one of the first things they’ll probably do is gather information about your desktop and about your PC and they’ll start looking around, and they would have a distinctive different search behavior as you do. And if you think about it, that’s natural. If you go into your apartment or your home, you know exactly where your scissors would be. Someone else who wants to find your scissors would have to search around.”

Another idea is a decoy document. Make a fake link to something called, say “financialinfo.doc” or “bankaccountnumbers.doc”.

“You, yourself, having placed the decoy would be unlikely to touch the file” Stolfo says, “but somebody who does, it’s an indication that someone is searching around your PC and touching files that they don’t know about, and it’s essentially like a trap-based technology where the intruder or the masquerader would be caught on the basis of having opened a file which they ordinarily wouldn’t know is not a real file.”

Until these new systems are rolled out, however, do me a favor and don’t use the password “password”. Thanks.

Also on today’s program, we journey back to 1998! That’s the year a company called NetZero debuted, offering free Internet access, with enough ads to make you lose the will to live. Now, NetZero is back, offering mobile access, and again there is a “free” option. A couple of catches: you need to buy equipment for it (already violating “free” in my book) and its capped at 200mb a month, which you might use on a handful of emails and websites. 

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