No One Lies to Google

Recently Vox came out with an article interviewing Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, author of Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are. Who said that polling that predicted Hillary Clinton’s win might have been up ended if pollsters had been exposed to data from Google.

Stephens did a deep dive into Google Trends under the hypothesis that people lie to pollsters, but they don’t lie to Google. He saw trends in increased searches of racial epithets and analyzed area data to find intent to vote (searching for polling places, researching candidates, etc.)

“There was a darkness and hatred that was hidden from traditional sources,” Stephens-Davidowitz says. “Those searches are hard to reconcile with a society in which racism is a small factor.”

When asked what he sees as his most startling finding…

I’m pretty convinced that the United States has a self-induced abortion crisis right now based on the volume of search inquiries. I was blown away by how frequently people are searching for ways to do abortions themselves now. These searches are concentrated in parts of the country where it’s hard to get an abortion and they rose substantially when it became harder to get an abortion. They’re also, I calculate, missing pregnancies in these states that aren’t showing up in either abortion or birth rates.

Why It’s Hot:

We are at a point of crisis in polling and electoral faith, if we have Google data to help us match results this might restore confidence in our system. This also can help point us to where people are under served or suffering in our country. By keeping anonymity, this lie free data collection keeps users protected but could use data for good…. or bad, I guess.


Facebook is Connecting You To Your Local Representative

For anyone who knows me, this information truly hits the sweet spot in my wheelhouse. Now, not everyone is Facebook friends with their state rep like me, fortunately, there’s an app for that… Facebook!

Facebook is looking to dive deeper to connect communities locally.

“Our goal is to help people build the communities they want by making it easier for them to engage and have a voice in government – on a daily basis, not just Election Day”

New features include, constituent badges, so representatives can see that they are a constituent when they interact online, as well as a community tab, so you can see what news stories affect your community and hear about local legislation.

To find your reps online go to:

Turns out I need to update who I follow too!

Why it’s hot:

As Russian’s hack our newsfeeds and we all watch the Comey testimony, some of our most important legislation happens right in our backyards. It’s great that for all the global connections that we make, we are starting to see that social media can do a great job connecting communities. Isn’t that what it was originally built for?


VoteBox is a startup that is looking to de-centralize voting by providing a secure service for local politicians, corporations, unions, and associations to create and manage polls.

How it works:

Create your voting event.

Specify the dates, time and questions.
Choose your authentication method and upload your list of voters.


Voters arrive at your branded voting website and authenticate.
When they submit a ballot, the results are encrypted and kept anonymous.
The voter is issued a receipt and is now blocked from voting for this election again.

Counting votes

Once voting has ended the results are immediately generated. You can view the results when logged in along with various reports on voting activity.

You can choose to make the results available to the voters on your voting website and allow your voters to verify them by downloading a file containing votes and receipt codes.



Why it’s hot:

  • Vote from your couch
  • Voting receipt to verify the results

A new platform for organizers crowdsources texting

Since the election, newly minted activists and community groups across the country have been looking for ways to quickly and effectively rally mass as well as local groups of citizens. Enter new platforms – such as Hustle – which are taking advantage of peer-to-peer texting using volunteer texters to reach the largest possible group of people directly, without messages getting lost on myriad social media feeds.


Former White House staffer Yoni Landau, the co-founder of Rapid Resist, an organization that uses the Hustle platform, observes “Text is intimate… It lets people know something is really happening if someone has taken the effort to text them individually and have a conversation with them.”

Plus, it’s fast and highly localized, creating an immune system of local movements. These peer-to-peer text platforms prove that solutions do not necessarily have to be highly technical to be effective, and sometimes the simplest solutions are the most successful.

*Correction 8/16/17: Rapid Resist and Indivisible are organizations that use the Hustle platform.

Facebook Launches Townhall!

We’ve all seen Facebook political rants and now Facebook is giving you an outlet to take it to the next level. Enter your location and Facebook will prompt you to follow or message your local rep and Facebook is calling it “Townhall”. Facebook lets you call, message, email and go to the Facebook Page of each representative listed. Messages are sent through Facebook Messenger.

Facebook officially released a tool Monday that lets its users — all desktop and mobile users in the U.S. — easily contact their local officials.

Why its hot

  • Facebook is giving people the opportunity to get involved in something they play a big role in.
  • Allows young people to get involved.
  • This could be the beginning of a larger effort for Facebook to be more involved in politics.

‘Town Hall’ – the best thing Facebook has ever done?

Facebook officially released a tool Monday that lets desktop and mobile users in the U.S. easily contact their local officials. It’s called “Town Hall” – reminiscent of what Facebook likes to see itself as, especially in political discussion.

Facebook Town Hall

Here’s how it works:

1. Find the “Town Hall” tab in your Setting pages on the Facebook app or go to

2. Enter your address. This will let you see which representatives are in your district.

3. See the list of representatives. You can choose to follow their Facebook Pages to see updates in your News Feed. You can also press contact.

4. Facebook lets you call, message, email and go to the Facebook Page of each representative listed. Messages are sent through Facebook Messenger.

The feature is integrated into the News Feed. If you choose to like or comment on a post by one of your local representatives, you’ll see a way to contact your representative after the post.

Why It’s Hot

Facebook has a huge impact on politics, whether we like it or not. I’d rather see the company focus on trying to encourage civil engagement (even if it backfires) than not acknowledge its role in the political dialogue.

538 Uses Reddit Math to Get to the Core of Politics

Nate Silver, famous statistician at Five used the populations of the most popular Donald Trump reddit /The_Donald, to break down user behaviors in other subreddits across the site.

He experiments with deleting and adding user groups to draw conclusions.

“So even adding innocuous subreddits, such as r/europe and r/Games, to r/The_Donald can result in something ugly or hate-based — r/european frequently hosts anti-Semitism and racism, while r/KotakuInAction is Reddit’s main home for the misogynistic Gamergate movement.”

This image below contains offensive (since banned) subreddits and how they trend among supporters of certain politicians. It’s fascinating.

“Subreddits dedicated to politics and news are smack in the middle. r/Feminism is on the Sanders/Clinton side of the spectrum, though slightly closer to Clinton, as is r/TheBluePill, a feminist parody of r/TheRedPill; r/BasicIncome (a subreddit advocating for a universal basic income) is also on the liberal side, though slightly closer to Sanders.

And all of those hate-based subreddits? They’re decidedly in r/The_Donald’s corner.”

Why it’s hot:

This logic can be applied as social listening to any group to get to some of the technographic details we are always looking for. It is also a really interesting look at what human insights data can get us.


Social Media Platforms Exploring their Roles in Presidential Debates

On Sunday, NBC partnered with YouTube to host the third Democratic Debate in South Carolina. This isn’t the first debate of this election to include a partnership with a social media platform, as the previous Democratic Debates were hosted by CBS News and Twitter, as well as CNN and Facebook.

In 2012, YouTube brought us the first live streaming of the Presidential and Vice Presidential Debates on YouTube through ABC News’ YouTube Channel. While streaming, they also included commentary from other partners such as BuzzFeed, the Wall Street Journal, and Univision.

For this debate, it appeared they tried to integrate further with questions from their pre-filmed questions from their YouTube stars and Google Trends search data was shared before commercial breaks to inform viewers as to what people were searching for, as it related to the debate. As of Monday at noon, the debate had received 1.5 million views on YouTube, but YouTube’s role was largely criticized.

The Google Trends data fell flat in how it was shared, as a slide before and after commercial breaks, and it seemed to only draw attention to the fact that Twitter was not a part of their Google empire, as it would have been a much more natural fit.

The questions by YouTube stars were forced as well, and fit only as a plug for YouTube itself. At one point, they aired a cartoon to explain climate change in a lead up to a question, which many critiqued on Twitter (again, a more natural fit).



Why It’s Hot: 

Every social media platform is trying to push to own real time and live streaming is getting bigger by the second. This effort by YouTube is an attempt to further it’s position in that space, but their integrations seemed a bit forced.

As all the major platforms push to be an outlet where people can be connected to real events in real time, it’s vital they consider the strengths of their platform and how people naturally use them, rather than half hearted integrations that only show they don’t fully grasp how their service is valuable to consumers.

Swipe Right for the Next President of the United States

Spending so much time on Tinder that you haven’t had the chance to read up on the presidential hopefuls for the next elections? Addicted to swiping? Want a fun, easy, quick way to expand your political knowledge? Voter might be the app for you.

The iOS app uses Tinder’s familiar swiping mechanism to help you learn more about presidential candidates and parties that match your views. The app currently has various levels of questions. In Level 1, you’ll be swiping about your views on basic, core social, environmental and economic issues, like legalizing marijuana, same-sex marriage, abortions, the death penalty, and increasing or decreasing the minimum wage and military spending. Unsure about an issue? Click the picture for a quick cheatsheet on the facts behind the issues, and a few bullet points from supporters and opponents.

You can also select how important each question is to you (a la matching questions on dating website OkCupid).

Level 2 goes more in depth: you’ll swipe about a fence at the border, increasing spending on education, term limits for congress, taxing the wealthy, financial aid for other nations and more. Once you’ve swiped your opinions, you get matched with potential political parties and candidates.

You’ll be able to view your political matches sorted by percentage, with a neat breakdown of the issues you agree or disagree on, and the ability to contact the party or donate. For candidate matches, you’ll also get a few quotes and a short bio, as well as a breakdown of top campaign contributors by name and industry for the more established candidates.

voter-app-1-psfk voter-app-psfk.png

Source: PSFK

Why It’s Hot

It’s important for young people to understand their political environment, and we haven’t seen a lot of evidence that politics is adapting to Millennials. An app like this takes a key demographic and insights about their behavior and makes politics accessible and even entertaining.



Snapchat Goes Political

This week Jeb Bush teased his intention to run for US president via Snapchat. The Florida governor and brother of George W. Bush used a message branded with a special logo on the filter to run a sponsored story.

Bush’s communication director made it clear that this announcement via the social platform was intended to reach a younger audience. He said “Everyone was excited about the opportunity to reach a broad, younger audience, give people a more authentic view of what happens at an announcement. Jeb is a tech nerd of sorts, so he is always wanting to use the freshest tools.”

Other political figures have also joined Snapchat, such as Gov. Rick Perry, Sen. Rand Paul and Sen. Marco Rubio. However, they did not use the live storytelling feature of the app, which can be viewed by as many as 100 million of Snapchat’s daily users. For example, Perry snapchatted a video just prior to his announcement but will only get a reach equal to his followers.

Hillary Clinton, like Jeb, is also not officially on Snapchat. But while delivering her first major speech of her campaign on Saturday, was featured as part of Snapchat’s “Our Story.”


Why It’s Hot

Politicians clearly want to reach their key demographics where they are. For the younger generation that means social media. We saw this with Obama’s presidential campaign and his heavy use of Twitter. It gave the nation the idea that Obama is more approachable and that there is opportunity to directly reach the President (or his team.) On the other hand, as a user of Snapchat, I am not sure how thrilled I am to have it filled with political stories and campaigns. If that is what I was hoping to see, I could turn on the news. And as noted above it is one thing if the political figures campaign and post videos and stories through their own Snapchat account, which I would then have to voluntarily opt into. On the other hand, by sponsoring stories, this content will show up in the newsfeed of all users. In conclusion, it will be interesting to see how these candidates continue to use Snapchat and other social media platforms throughout their campaigns.



Obama Takes to Tumblr

On Wednesday President Obama took to Tumblr to answer the public’s questions about education in the United States. The week prior the White House asked Tumblr users to submit questions, primarily concentrating on higher education and student debt. The government then invited students and Tumblr bloggers, to help cull through the questions and select which ones the President would respond to. Thousands of questions were submitted and about 15 actually made it to the President.

The White House claims they did not see any of the selected questions prior to the Q&A session.

The event followed the executive action the President took the same day to make student loan debt more affordable and manageable to repay, and covered a broad range of topics, from college access to student loans, and the steps the President is taking to make it all a little easier to manage.

If you missed it, you can watch it here: 


Why It’s Hot

 It is common knowledge when you are trying to reach a target group – you go where your audience is. It’s interesting that Obama begins by stating that his team is always looking for new ways to reach the audiences that are affected by the things the government is talking about. He notes that a large percentage of young people are on Tumblr and it is the young people that are affected by student debt.

Even the President is confirming that he realizes the undeniable importance of social media. He took to Twitter often during his campaign and now continues to utilize social platforms for important social discussions. Therefore, when people believe they just put things out there on social media that go into endless Internet space, they should think again. President Obama could be reading your comment or answering your question. Social media continues to give a voice to not only the powerful but also the seemingly powerless.

FCC Considers Allowing “Fast Lanes”

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler proposed new Internet regulations that would allow broadband providers to charge web companies extra to ensure that their content travels on online “fast lanes.” Large companies like Netflix & Skype, for example, would pay fees in order to provide the optimal experience to users, while smaller content producers (bloggers, start-ups, non-profits), who may not be able to afford the fees, would deliver a sub-optimal experience.

The implications are numerous. Audiences will naturally prefer the optimal user experience to the sub-optimal. Content and tools that are produced by small organizations, such as bloggers, start-ups and non-profits may fail to gain an audience, due to this preference. Consumption of digital media may become increasingly concentrated among several major networks. The internet may no longer be a platform where minority viewpoints find their way to the masses…where a college kid’s pet project can become the largest social platform in the world…where your silly cat can become the next 100MM hit wonder!

The legislation could stymie technological advancement, creativity and the arts, political and social progress…all things that start small and require an amplification engine to have the opportunity to thrive. If costs are passed to consumers, then consumers will no longer have equal access to the same content, which has implications for education and opportunity.


Why It’s Hot: Ironically, this proposal is part of a larger body of work, the new “Net Neutrality” regulations, which are meant to prevent discrimination and to ensure equal access to information for all, which means this is a very hot political issue (search “net neutrality” + “democracy”, “capitalism” or “civil liberties” to learn more). However, this hot topic could also be a game changer for us, since consumer media consumption will likely change (to a landscape that looks more like television?) and since increased content consumption costs may give rise to new, premium advertising and sponsorship opportunities.