Obama takes MySpace page from backer
By NEDRA PICKLER, Associated Press Writer
Is MySpace always mine or can it belong to someone else? At the cost
of losing 160,000 friends, Democrat Barack Obama's presidential
campaign has taken over control of the MySpace page listed under his
name on the popular social networking site.
The case highlights the struggle between campaigns' desire to control
their message versus the power of voter-generated material. And it
shows how one person -- in this case Los Angeles paralegal Joe
Anthony -- can become an influence on presidential politics through
the power of the Internet.
The dispute between the Obama campaign and Anthony, a one-time
supporter who started the Obama MySpace page, became such a concern
for the Illinois senator that he personally tried to smooth things
over Wednesday night.
Anthony felt he was mistreated by the campaign after he spent the past
2 1/2 years running the MySpace page as an enthusiastic volunteer. At
first, that arrangement was fine with the Obama team, which worked
with Anthony on the content, promoted the link and even had the
password to make changes.
But as the site exploded in popularity in recent months, the campaign
became concerned about an outsider controlling the content and
responses going out under Obama's name. It told Anthony it wanted him
to turn it over.
In this new frontier of online campaigning, it's hard to determine the
value of 160,000 MySpace friends -- about four times what any other
official campaign MySpace page had amassed. But the Obama campaign
decided they wouldn't pay $39,000, which is what Anthony said he
proposed for his extensive work on the site, plus some additional fees
up to $10,000.
MySpace reluctantly stepped in to settle the dispute and decided that
Obama should have the rights to control
http://www.myspace.com/barackobama as of Monday night. Anthony had the
right to take all the friends who signed up while he was in control,
and that includes the right to tell them how he feels about the Obama
campaign -- although he said he was still locked out of the page
with his contacts as of Wednesday.
Anthony wrote on his MySpace blog that he was heartbroken that the
Obama campaign was "bullying" him out of the page he built. He
initially said the candidate lost his vote, but Obama may have begun
to win it back after a Wednesday evening phone call that Anthony
called a great honor. Anthony said he was so nervous that he doesn't
remember exactly what Obama said, but the candidate expressed his
appreciation and they agreed everyone learned a lesson in this case.
"I assured him that this is just a horrible thing that happened and
obviously he wasn't responsible," Anthony said in a blog post. "It'll
take time for me to work this out and decide if I will personally
continue to support Obama, regardless of how I feel about his
campaign's handling of this situation."
Meanwhile, the Obama campaign was trying to rebuild his friends
network from scratch and was up to more than 20,000 by Wednesday
Joe Rospars, Obama's director of new media, wrote in a blog post that
the campaign "decided to take a leap" in teaming up with an outside
organizer on MySpace. He said the arrangement worked at first, but
campaign officials became uncomfortable when Anthony changed the
password to prevent them from working on the site and made his
"We're going to try new things, and sometimes it's going to work, and
sometimes it's not going to work," Rospars wrote. "That's the cost and
that's the risk of experimenting."
The campaign's fight drew widespread criticism among leading liberal
bloggers who question why they would treat a volunteer like Anthony
with such disregard. But Obama has some online defenders who say
volunteer work should remain that way and not be held up for payment.
Advocacy Inc. CEO Roger Alan Stone collects and sells contact
information to Democratic campaigns, lawmakers and advocacy groups,
but says he isn't working for any of the current White House
candidates. He says e-mail addresses collected for such a cause can go
for $1 each, so in that sense the price Anthony was asking was low.
But Stone comes down on the side of the Obama campaign in this
"As something that was done on a volunteer basis that you want to
charge for after the fact, that is ridiculous," Stone said.
On the Net:
Obama MySpace page: http://www.myspace.com/barackobama
Joe Anthony's MySpace page: http://myspace.com/skyscrapernationalpark
Copyright 2007 The Associated Press.
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