News Column

Social Media Explode with 2012 Election Comments, Photos

November 7, 2012

By Marisol Bello

The first national election when social media went mainstream unfolded Tuesday as voters posted comments about long lines, photos of their ballots and, in one case that went viral, a video of a voting machine gone rogue.

On Twitter, the popular site for short bursts of breaking news, users were tweeting 11,000 election-related posts per minute. Before most polls closed, the hashtag "election2012" surpassed 11 million tweets.

Election Day became the most tweeted-about event in U.S. political history with 20 million tweets, Twitter posted Tuesday night.

President Obama's Twitter feed posted "Four more years" after TV networks declared him the winner. The post was retweeted more than 225,000 times. The digital news site Buzzfeed said it was the most popular tweet of all time.

"Karl Rove" trended when the Republican strategist argued it was still too early to call the election. Most of the tweets mocked Rove, an analyst for Fox News, which was among those reporting that Obama won.

"Fox News is projecting that tomorrow is Wednesday but Karl Rove refuses to believe it," tweeted a user called @doriginale5.

After the call that Obama won, tweets with the hashtag "#election2012" reached more than 325,000 a minute, making it the most tweeted moment of the election, Twitter said.

The big hit Tuesday was the "I voted" stickers voters received after casting their ballots. People posted photos of themselves with the stickers on their shirts, foreheads, children and dogs. The phrase "ivoted" was popular with more than 1.4 million tweets as users posted more than 2,000 tweets a minute with the phrase or similar terms.

On Instagram, the photo-sharing site owned by Facebook, people posted more than 775,000 photos with the term "vote," "ivoted," or some variation and more than 250,000 photos with the word "election" or similar phrase. The photos showed images of users' ballots and lines at their polling places.

But some of that sharing may be illegal, depending on the state. Six states bar recording inside a polling place, and 34 don't allow photos or filming of marked ballots, according to the Citizen Media Law Project.

One video quickly went viral Tuesday after a user called Centralpavote posted a video on YouTube that showed a malfunction with his voting machine. Every time his finger hit the button for Obama, a check appeared next to Mitt Romney's name.

The user said on YouTube that there has been speculation that the footage he shot was edited.

"I'm not a video guy, but if it's possible to prove whether a video has been altered or not, I will GLADLY provide the raw footage to anyone who is willing to do so," he said.

State election officials said they found a problem with a voting machine -- probably the same one, said Matthew Keeler, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of State -- and recalibrated it.

On Facebook, more than 2 million people were talking about Obama and more than 950,000 were talking about Romney. The social media giant said 8.3 million people on Facebook said they voted.

And there isn't a major media event without a series of Web-related mishaps or inaccurate information that spreads on social sites.

The Cincinnati Enquirer on its website,, posted a front-page link to a chart with dummy data, created as a design template for election results, that showed Romney in the lead. The link was tweeted by the Drudge Report, which wrote, "Early count in Ohio gives Romney 92,000 vote lead." It was retweeted more than 1,390 times.

The paper, owned by USA TODAY parent company Gannett, pulled the page, saying, "No votes have been counted yet -- by law, counting doesn't start until the polls close. regrets the error."

The Associated Press called Michigan for Romney and quickly corrected to say Obama won the state before the error hit social media, but not before The Wall Street Journal sent out an e-mail alert to its subscribers.

Source: Copyright USA TODAY 2012

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