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Twitter And The Presidential Debates

October 16, 2012, 10:08 PM by Kelly Bartnick

Twitter And The Presidential Debates

Are you what you tweet?  It's a question asked in a Sioux Falls cubicle every day. And Tuesday night Jamie Martin scoured twitter on a computer screen as the Presidential debate raged on the TV screen.

“We found out Ohio was swearing more often than Iowa,” Martin said.

Martin is a deep web investigator for Sioux Falls-based BrightPlanet, a company that puts its focus on finding information on the web that you don't even know exists. In an age of big data, the 2012 election is being measured by matrices.

“We can get a good sense of how people reacted to the debates and predict essentially who won the debate in the sense of the people,” Martin said.

This election year, they're monitoring twitter activity in two swing states, Iowa and Ohio, collecting and comparing tweets in those states for the 24 hours before and after the presidential debates. While Romney was supposed have won the last time, Twitter said otherwise.

“How we declared it was that Ohio was won by Obama and Iowa was won by Romney with the debate,” Martin said.

“People are turning to Twitter and their cell phones before they're calling law enforcement agencies.  Or if they see something bad happen, they're tweeting about it first,” said Al Meger.

Al Meger also monitors Twitter for the company but he’s doing something different with the social networking program. Meger monitors all tweets in the area surrounding Hofstra University where the debate took place at the request of law enforcement agencies who hope to fend off potential issues before they start.

“They had this situation where all the protest groups ran together in the same corner and all of the sudden you had a violent mob,” Meger said.

During the last debate, BrightPlanet collected about 60,000 tweets in Ohio and Iowa. They have the capability to do it country-wide, but say the two separate states are a good way to build a scientific control group.

More on BrightPlanet’s debate monitoring.

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