Former BuzzFeed top editor says Facebook had ‘explicit goal’ to elect Barack Obama: ‘A Democratic institution’

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Former BuzzFeed editor in chief Ben Smith admitted Tuesday that Facebook was basically a “Democratic institution” bent on electing Barack Obama.

In an interview on MSNBC, Smith explained that while conducting research for his new book “Traffic,” he was surprised to learn about the monumental role that Facebook and digital news outlets like the Huffington Post played in electing Obama.

“I think the thing that surprised me most was going back and seeing that there was this early internet scene where, to some degree, the explicit goal was to elect Barack Obama,” Smith explained.

“For the Huffington Post, that was part of the point,” he added. “And everyone just took for granted in that world that these were college kids, young people, newly on the internet — they were Democrats. Barack Obama visited Facebook. It sort of went without saying that Facebook was like a Democratic institution.”

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Smith is right. The 2008 election was the first that played out in significant part online. Obama won, in part, because he successfully utilized the novel digital world.

A US News article published in November 2008 explained:

This election was the first in which all candidates—presidential and congressional—attempted to connect directly with American voters via online social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace. It has even been called the “Facebook election.” It is no coincidence that one of Obama’s key strategists was 24-year-old Chris Hughes, a Facebook cofounder. It was Hughes who masterminded the Obama campaign’s highly effective Web blitzkrieg—everything from social networking sites to podcasting and mobile messaging.

Reality catches up with early ideals of digital

Smith’s observation about Facebook and the liberal digital media world cements part of the thesis for his book: Obama’s election seemed like the culmination of the new digital landscape, but Trump’s election in 2016 was the true “apogee” of the digital media era because right-wing personalities learned from BuzzFeed, Huffington Post, and Gawker Media to maximize the digital world to conservatives and, ultimately, Trump.

“[F]or the people who thought that they were the main characters, like me and you — it turned out it was Andrew Breitbart and Steve Bannon who were the main characters,” Smith explained in a separate interview.

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