The Battle for Obama's Space

May 3rd, 2007 6:58 PM

Barack Obama's campaign has gotten itself into a bit of trouble over a Myspace profile. Not just any Myspace profile, however:

For the past two and a half years, the page has been run by an Obama supporter from Los Angeles named Joe Anthony. At first, that arrangement was fine with the Obama team, which worked with Anthony on the content and even had the password to make changes themselves.

But as the site exploded in popularity in recent months, the campaign became concerned about an outsider having control of the content and responses going out under Obama's name and told Anthony they 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 has 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 as of Monday night, while Anthony had the right to take the contact information for all the friends who signed up while he was in control. That includes the right to tell them exactly how he feels about the Obama campaign.

Lots of questions emerge about the scandal. Ann Althouse asks the right ones:

There is a bundle of questions here. Is it acceptable for a someone to use someone else's name for their URL? Should MySpace have done Obama's bidding or protected the individual user? Should someone who claims to be a candidate's supporter try to extract money from the campaign? If the effort to extract the money fails, should the erstwhile supporter denounce the candidate on line? What will happen in the next instance, as candidates and individual users see how this little drama plays out? [...]

And now the bloggers will talk about this. And the blogger's commenters. What do you think? What do I think? It's really bad to destroy someone else's work, and really stupid when that person was your supporter -- your influential supporter. What could they have thought made it worth making this ugly, conspicuous power play? The fear of losing control of your message? But expressing that fear also makes you look bad! You don't like people independently expressing political messages, and you want to control things? That's bad enough, but you didn't succeed in controlling him -- he seems to have a bigger audience right now -- and you've converted his message from a positive one to a negative one.

Hat tip: Instapundit.