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Biden allies raising $10m to challenge Trump social media machine

21-06-2024

WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden’s main re-election SuperPAC is raising millions of dollars to try to solve a problem vexing Democrats: how to compete with Republican Donald Trump’s social media machine that spits out a wall of viral videos.

The previously unreported effort by the highly-secretive Future Forward USA Action underscores broad concerns among Democrats and Biden donors that he and his campaign are losing a viral-video war with the Republican Party, which relentlessly portrays him as too old and out of touch.

Democrats say they are playing catch-up in a battlefield with few rules or ways to police manipulated or misleading content before it reaches tens of millions of Americans on their smartphones.

The Palo-Alto-based SuperPAC, backed by tech giants like Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz and LinkedIn founder Reed Hoffman, is raising at least $10 million to help better understand the algorithms that help Trump and his allies dominate vertical video platforms.

It also plans to collaborate with left-leaning influencers to help generate and disseminate new content, according to two sources familiar with the plans.

Many popular social media platforms, such as TikTok and Instagram have embraced short, vertical videos as their primary format. They’ve given birth to a network of “influencers” who use the platforms to reach millions of Americans with content on what they are eating, wearing and thinking.

Future Forward joined with Democratic groups Way to Win and Hub Project last month at an upscale hotel in Washington DC to host 140 influencers for a three-day event called “Trending Up,” organizers say.

The current effort by Future Forward is focused on Instagram Reels, YouTube Shorts and TikTok, the sources said.

“Future Forward is around to help solve problems, and TikTok is a problem and the group is reasonably trying to solve that problem,” said one of the Democratic sources. The battle on social media could have an outsized impact in a race between Biden and Trump that polls show is extremely close, and features two unpopular candidates. Since February, when the Biden campaign officially joined the TikTok platform, it has posted more than 200 times and garnered just over 380,000 followers. Trump joined TikTok roughly two weeks ago but has already accumulated 6.4 million followers.

Social media plays a crucial role in Americans’ news consumption, particularly among younger people. Half of U.S. adults get news at least sometimes from social media, according to February Pew Research Center, opens new tab study.

Chauncey McLean, the head of Future Forward, did not respond to requests for comment. The group, which plans to spend $250 million on television and digital ads this campaign season, rarely talks publicly about its activities.

The Republican National Committee, major conservative media outlets and right-wing influencers have been blasting out videos, some deceptively edited, that play into voters’ existing concerns about Biden’s age.

They often isolate a few seconds of Biden’s public movements to suggest he’s disoriented or wandering off, when a longer or wider-framed edit shows Biden engaging with bystanders or not doing anything out of the ordinary. The White House and Democrats refer to these rapidly produced videos that use basic editing tools as cheap fakes. The RNC says the White House’s criticism is “naked panic from deranged Democrats.” Fake accounts posting about the US presidential election are proliferating on the social media platform X, Reuters reported earlier this year. (Int’l Monitoring Desk)

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