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Text by Eric Olander

Latest update : 2012-03-29

Google unveiled a new feature on its French edition that aggregates news and political information surrounding the upcoming presidential race. The company unveiled the new section on Wednesday with a debate on the political impact of the internet.

France has become the latest country to benefit from Google's foray into election-related news with the launch of a new feature that aggregates political information and candidate profiles related to the upcoming presidential elections.

The release Wednesday of Google's "Election and Politics" section on its French site,, is the online search giant's fourth election website after Egypt, Senegal and the United States.

The company kicked off the new service at its Paris headquarters with a debate among leading political social media experts from the US, France and Tunisia to discuss the growing impact that the internet is having on political campaigns around the world.

In France, the panelists agreed, the internet has transformed the political landscape since the last presidential vote in 2007. "The context of the 'net' campaign completely changed" said French online strategist Benoit Thieulin. In the last election, he said, the internet teams at the various campaigns were staffed with young people, largely isolated from the decision-makers.

Today, in the wake of US president Barack Obama's successful 2008 online presidential campaign, the on and offline strategies have now merged, according to Thieulin.

In the era before social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube went mainstream, the internet played a largely peripheral role in presidential campaign strategies.

Today, with a majority of the population in both France and the US connected to the network, the situation is entirely different. "We are reaching a critical mass of people who are connected to each other. We didn't necessarily have that in 2004 and 2008," said Republican online strategist Patrick Ruffini.

While only a small minority of the overall population is politically active online, veteran Democrat digital strategist Joe Trippi said the actual number isn't what's important. Instead the issue is how the campaigns can best take advantage of their online supporters, "it's giving the people the power to take action themselves," he said.

Now campaign strategists can leverage this population, he added, and "turn them from followers who don't just follow online but also do something offline [like] voting and participating."

Date created : 2012-03-29


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