Since President Obama blazed a new online and social media trail as a key part of his campaign for the 2008 US Presidential Election, there has been much speculation that online will be key in the next UK general election. This is supported by the fact that both Gordon Brown and David Cameron are pretty well advanced in the online arena with media rich websites and social media presence.
However, it seems that Labour might be starting to regret this surge in online politics having disabled viewer comments on its YouTube channel. The thing about the Internet and social media in particular is that it gives everyone a chance to be heard and ideas can spread a lot quicker than in offline circles. Given what’s happening in the UK right now it seems that dissatisfaction with the government is the idea of the moment. Even Downing Street’s initiative of allowing the public to submit and sign up to e-petitions on the Number 10 website looks like it may have backfired, with the most signed petition being one for Gordon Brown to resign, with over 38,000 signatures at the time of writing this post.
This does sound ominous for Labour, but on the flipside, a recent poll had the party winning an election among Twitter’s users with 35% of the vote. One thing’s for sure, attempting to censor social media users is usually not well received. Many companies have learnt that if you’re going to develop a social media presence you have to let people who interact with you have their say. More often than not, you will find that your supporters will answer your critics on your behalf!
What’s next for Labour online, regulating petitions? Making Twitter feeds private? Who knows, but the Prime Minister certainly has some work to do to emulate President Obama. Whatever happens next though, every incident like this can be considered a victory for e-politics and social media.