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Presidential Debates Launch MySpace Portal

Today the Commission on Presidential Debates launched an online toolset through MySpace, in a dedicated portal called MyDebates.org.

Organizers say this is the “first” time that the commission has injected “online functionality” into the debates during its 21-year history. The tools is intended to “personalize the debates” and integrate “new media into the debate series.”

What does that mean and who cares, you might ask.

Basically, Image has not been found. URL: http://www.washingtonindependent.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/09/picture-63-300x251.pngpartnering with MySpace means the debates will be more accessible online than if the Commission tried to soup up its own website. The portal will provide another platform to view the debates, and debate them, while guiding visitors through a 14-topic issue quiz to assess the candidates’ views.

Politicos may balk, but young and undecided voters could find it a handy feature on a website where they already feel comfortable. Remember, MySpace is the most popular destination website in the U.S., beating YouTube and trailing only search sites Google and Yahoo! in overall traffic. It also trends more blue collar than Facebook, which began on college campuses, as Danah Boyd discussed in her 2007 essay on class divisions online.

Finally, the portal will solicit questions from visitors in advance, according to an announcement today:

MyDebates.org also includes a feature which will allow users to submit a question that may be presented to the candidates during the second presidential debate, a Town Hall format, moderated by Tom Brokaw on Tuesday, Oct. 7.

As I’ve written here before, though, handpicking questions online is no different than handpicking questions offline. The web provides more democratic and transparent opportunities, like open voting and “digging” questions. This gives citizens more influence over the agenda, and provides more accountability for how the powerful debate organizers shape some of these significant campaign events.

This portal is better than nothing — which is what we had last cycle — but it ain’t good enough.

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