Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Republicans and the Internet: A match made in Sheboygan.

The misalliance hasn't gotten better after Ted Stevens explained a couple of years ago that the Internet was "a series of tubes."

Exhibit #1::

This week, the RNC unveiled a new link-shortening tool -- called -- that also caused some trouble for the party. (thanks to reader H.H. for the tip)

Possibly the first branded URL shortener, was designed by the RNC's new media consultants, Political Media, to work somewhat like, in that it shortens URLs so that they can be more easily exchanged through short messaging services like Twitter. Google launched its own URL shortener Monday afternoon, and Facebook now has one, too.

But unlike, includes a toolbar at the top of the screen that follows users as they click through to see whatever pages the links go to. It also sports an animation of RNC chairman Michael Steele walking around on the lower right as if he's showing off the website -- particularly awkward when that website is the bondage site.

Yes, it wasn't long after the Republican National Committee launched its link-shortening tool before the fairly obvious misuse of the tool became common. As Wired noted, "Pranksters almost immediately began using the service to link to controversial or ironically intended websites, such as the official site of the American Communist Party, a bondage website and a webpage advertising a sex toy in the likeness of Barack Obama.

Exhibit 2:

The executive director of the Arizona GOP used a Republican voter database to stalk a female grad student, the woman has alleged in a criminal complaint.

The complaint, filed last month with the local sheriff's office and reported by the Huffington Post, alleges that Brett Mecum "is using Voter Vault to stalk." That's the sophisticated voter-targeting program that the GOP uses to turn its supporters out to the polls.

The woman charges that on August 29, she was having a party at home to celebrate her acceptance into an East Coast graduate school, when Mecum showed up uninvited. According to the affidavit, which HuffPo has posted:

I did not invite Brett Mecum. He is rather creepy and intimidating around women. I did not want to expose my guests to that kind of individual. I was shocked to see him show up at my party. He had never been to my house, and I had never told him where I lived. I asked him how he found my address, and he responded "I looked it up on Voter Vault, I called a staffer to look it up for me there."

The woman, whose name was redacted from the complaint, said she felt threatened, and appeared to charge that other women have similarly been stalked. [. . . ]

Mecum told an Arizona political site: "This is completely bogus. At the end of the day, I will be exonerated in all of this. This happens a lot in politics, unfortunately. When you have a high-profile job like mine, you sometimes make some enemies."

And RNC Treasurer Randy Pullen, who is also the chair of the state party, seemed to dismiss the issue in a statement:

He used Voter Vault. The Republican National Committee owns Voter Vault....It's a private list. We own the list. We can do what we want with the list, quite frankly.

But it's a felony to use a voter registration database for anything other than official purposes, according to HuffPo. And of course, there are laws against stalking and harassment.

(H/t to Doctor Beyond, and apologies to the fine people of the city of Sheboygan WI.)

No comments: