Facebook has agreed to provide the American political journalism organization Politico with data on what the service's users are talking about, politically speaking. Politico will thus be able to offer its readers an exclusive look at the conversation taking place on the social network about the Republican presidential candidates ahead of South Carolina's crucial primary on January 21, 2012.
Facebook's data team will compile mentions of the candidates in U.S. users' posts and comments as well as use automated software tools to assess positive and negative sentiments expressed about them. This information will be exclusively available on Politico with analysis by its journalists; the first results (see the chart above) have already been posted in the following article: Facebook primary: Mitt Romney, Ron Paul in the lead. It features the following disclaimer:
Facebook uses an automated process to identify and analyze all Facebook posts and comments that are made by U.S. users and mention any of the presidential candidates. The analysis of sentiment is done using Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC), a well-validated software tool used frequently in social psychological research to identify positive and negative emotion in text; Facebook employees do not read the posts. Post volume and sentiment levels were aggregated by candidate from Dec. 12 through Jan. 10.
As a part of the partnership, Politico and Facebook will also survey voting-age users in South Carolina on a daily basis, with the questions coming from Politico's editorial team. The survey results will be published the following day on Politico, Politico's Facebook Page, as well as on the U.S. Politics on Facebook Page.
"Social media has forever changed the way candidates campaign for the presidency," John F. Harris, editor-in-chief of Politico, said in a statement. "Facebook has been instrumental in expanding the political dialogue among voters and we couldn't be more excited about the opportunity to offer our readers a look inside this very telling conversation."
"This highly competitive primary season has demonstrated that technologies like Facebook enhance the connections and conversations that are happening every day between voters and the presidential candidates," Joel Kaplan, vice president of U.S. Public Policy at Facebook, said in a statement. "Whether they are voting in early primaries, or just talking about the election, the candidates, and the issues with their friends and family, millions of Americans are actively engaged in the 2012 campaign. We're pleased those conversations are happening on Facebook and that leading news sources like Politico are helping drive healthy discussion and debate."