The Battle to Control Barack Obama’s Myspace

When the campaign decided to do a hostile takeover of the all-volunteer Barack Obama MySpace page, the guy who set it up and got 150,000 friends (many sent over by the campaign), asked for $40,000 and a commission on future MySpace ads. It seems the campaign didn't counter-offer, it just got MySpace to give them control of the page address (but not its content or friends list). And now the campaign has to rebuild the list from scratch.

Jerome Armstrong writes Obama blows into MySpace. Here's the Barack Obama blog's discussion of the “new and improved” Obama MySpace page. And the Kossacks weigh in.

While not all the facts are clear, one obvious divide in all this is what the 'sweat equity' in building up a volunteer site based on a candidate's name is worth. Some say zero — the candidate has the moral and maybe legal rights to the use of his name (the law isn't so clear here, however. so long as there is no misrepresentation nor profiting going on, the use may be perfectly legal.) Others say that the failure to treat volunteers with the same consideration as media consultants when the volunteers deliver better goods is a sign of being behind the times.

If $40K was too much for a campaign with millions in the bank, a really smart candidate operation would have counter-offered a few bucks and dinner with the candidate…

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8 Responses to The Battle to Control Barack Obama’s Myspace

  1. scate says:

    Indeed, it appears that the Obama campaign never made a counter offer before having MySpace confiscate the profile and convert it to a redirect to a new “Official” site.

  2. steve says:

    The people that bulldozed over Joe Anthony are hoping for appointments. So to blame his campaign team, is also to blame Barack Obama. He has lost my vote. I do not want another White House of scandal.

  3. anon says:

    He’s lost your vote over a “MySpace scandal?” This isn’t even a big deal. Some computer nerd was trying to extort $40K from a campaign. If he was really an Obama supporter, he would gladly turned over the site. Instead, he was trying to make a quick buck. Sure, the campaign should have handled it better. However, this guy was clearly trying to profit from someone else’s name. I can’t feel too sorry for him.

  4. Patrick (G) says:

    To recast this in a more concrete analogy, Suppose this guy had built an ultralight airplane from a kit and decorated it with Obama campaign materials to show his support for his candidate, caled it the ‘ObamaFlyer’, and even coordinated with the Obama campaign to fly over Obama events and whatnot. Then the Obama campaign decided that they wanted to make the ObamaFlyer an official part of the campaign. They ask the Owner/pilot for it, and he names a price; more than the cost of the kit. They don’t like his price, but instead of making a counter-offer, they get the FAA to ground his plane.

    They asked for it because they felt it had value, and would have greater value for them if they controlled it. But when the owner put his own valuation on it, instead of negotiating in good faith, they destroyed it.

    More important than the particulars is how it was handled. Because how it was/is being handled is character-revealing.

  5. Michael says:

    But is the character it reveals that of mid-level staff or the candidate? It doesn’t seem the candidate got involved until everything hit the fan. So I find it a little hard to blame him for more than not having a first-class internet-savvy staff. And who does? (Maybe Edwards ver. 2.0, who knows?)

    And the FAA analogy isn’t apt since they people were probably thinking “cybersquatting”. Even though that’s not what this was. In their minds I bet it wasn’t FAA and ultralight, but FCC and pirate radio…. Wrong, but not hard to understand. They get one bite in my book. This was it.

  6. Patrick (G) says:

    The FAA in my analogy corresponds to the MySpace admins; the bureaucratic power largely in charge of the domain, but inappropriately brought in to end the matter.

    The charge of “cybersquatting” does not hold given the pre-existing working relationship between Joe Anthony and the Obama campaign.

    Internet-savvy isn’t the problem, but how and why that working relationship was soured and unilaterally

    Obama’s “I stand by my staff” stance is not an encouraging sign of how he would run an even larger organization (The executive branch, natch). A better response would be:

    “Mr Anthony is not a cybersquatter but a valuable volunteer partner whom we asked to put a price on his role as MySpace coordinator so that we could buy him out and expand the scope of what he started. However, communication broke down during that process, and so I have asked he and my staff to restart negotiations over what would be a fair valuation of Mr Anthony’s work on our behalf.”

  7. Alex Hammer says:

    Exclusive: TechPresident Traffic Rockets with Obama MySpace Story
    Anthony Speaks On Obama MySpace Takeover: ‘They Took This Profile Without My Consent’
    How Joe Anthony Schooled the Barack Obama Campaign, and What We Still Don’t Know
    How did Obama get protection? – Chicago Sun-Times

  8. It’s slightly more complicated. Anthony says he had given them the password to the site, back before things had broken down. So it isn’t just that they went to myspace, although that happened too.
    He weakened his own claim by giving up technical control. Not that that means it wasn’t a PR blunder.

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