Macro Social Work, social justice

On “Influencing” The Election Vs “Attempting to Influence”

Technology is an interesting thing. Using it to communicate is continually evolving. Using it to change behavior is really evolving. By using advertisements and social media campaigns, companies are always attempting to influence behaviors. The introduction of apps also is an attempt to get people to change their behavior.

This week there was an evolving story on Russia and it’s potential partnership with WikiLeaks to influence the United States election. President Obama ordered further investigations into this matter. I First heard about this two days ago while listening to a CNN interview with Senator Jim Risch. Senator Risch introduced an interesting argument. That if Russia did indeed hand this information off to WikiLeaks, Senator Risch maintained “I don’t think they interfered, they attempted to interfere”.

Overnight it was reported that preliminary CIA investigations found a direct link to Russia hacking these now infamous emails and handing them to WikiLeaks. The WikiLeaks release of both hacks of the Democratic National Committee emails and Senator John Podesta emails (35 releases in total) were huge social media events.

I am really interested in social media analytics. I don’t have access to these stats but I can only imagine the social media reaches of both #DNChack(s) and the #PodestaEmails (1–35?). I can recall that every single day of the Podesta Email releases, they were trending on twitter. This was certainly telling of how many people had access to these emails and their longevity.

I am interested in social media and how it can influence health behaviors and activism. I guess the question is when information “goes viral” when does it switch from “attempting to influence” behavior to actually influencing behavior?

I feel the intention of releasing the emails they were attempting to influence the election. Given the reach of these hacked emails, I have no question that they influenced individuals choice in the election. But how many? 1000, people? 100,000? 1,000,000?

When does this information cross the line and go from attempting to influence versus actually influencing voting behavior? As this story unfolds this something we will have to grapple with. This also tells us something about how information is disseminated. I don’t really agree with Senator Risch’s assessment but it does present a large question about how we measure social media’s influence on behavior change.

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This was originally published on my Medium account

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