Paid Political Memes for $150: SMC 1(5)

Social Media Communication in the News: 
Real-Time Discussion Starters

Bloomberg's Paid Influencers, Memes and Facebook Policies
Facebook changed its Instagram paid political rules after presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg hired "influencers" to post memes about the former New York City mayor, Politico reports. "Under the new rules, the content will have to be clearly marked as sponsored" (para. 3)."The spokesperson said in a statement that the rule change had been under consideration for some time, with meme posts gaining traction as a campaign tool, and with both political campaigns and government agencies inquiring about the company's policies on their use," (para. 4).

Salon was blunt, calling these "fake" posts: "Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg's campaign is paying social media influencers and a social media firm to flood Instagram with fake messages purportedly sent by the billionaire" (para. 1).

The Daily Beast earlier reported that influencers were being paid $150 per post: "For a fixed $150 fee, the Bloomberg campaign is pitching micro-influencers—someone who has from 1,000 to 100,000 followers, in industry parlance—to create original content 'that tells us why Mike Bloomberg is the electable candidate who can rise above the fray, work across the aisle so ALL Americans feel heard & respected'" (para. 4).

Update: The Associated Press called the changes "murky" in raising concerns. "Facebook’s policies leave plenty of loopholes, which campaigns and candidates will likely find ways to exploit until Election Day, said Dipayan Ghosh, a former Facebook employee who is currently co-director of Harvard’s digital platforms and democracy project." Foreign governments also may use the tactic. “We’re in for quite a lot of turmoil and trouble,” Ghosh said (paras. 4-5).

Question: Why is it right or not for candidates to pay for influence posts?

No End to Trump DoJ Tweets
Following President Trump's impeachment acquittal, the @realDonaldTrump Twitter account frequently has been used to weigh in on Department of Justice (DoJ) investigations. Attorney General Bill Barr said Trump's tweets made it “impossible for me to do my job,” but the Associated Press reported: "Unbowed by a public rebuke from his attorney general, President Donald Trump says he has the 'legal right' to intervene in criminal cases and sidestep the Justice Department’s historic independence" (para. 1).

Question: Should President Trump alter his tweeting? Why or why not?

In Case You Missed It: Aspiring Rapper and Others Pretended to Have Coronavirus
The newest rage on TikTok and other social media sites is to pretend to have coronavirus in videos designed to spark online and social media attention. James Potok, 28, was on a Toronto to Jamaica flight when he "announced that he was just in Wuhan, China, and he wasn’t 'feeling too well,' The Rolling Stone reported (@RollingStone - 2020, February 6).

Potok told CBC News that, "It certainly wasn't a smart thing to do." He apologized to passengers for ruining their vacation. The plane was forced to return to Ontario, and Potok was charged (@CBCNews - 2020, February 4). "Coronavirus is not something to joke about," he said. "People don't take it lightly."

Question: What can be done to reduce incentives social media users have to create viral videos?

SMC news is curated for Social Media Communication: Concepts, Practices, Data, Law and Ethics, third edition (2021).

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