Blogger Power in Politics

Deven Desai

Deven Desai is an associate professor of law and ethics at the Scheller College of Business, Georgia Institute of Technology. He was also the first, and to date, only Academic Research Counsel at Google, Inc., and a Visiting Fellow at Princeton University’s Center for Information Technology Policy. He is a graduate of U.C. Berkeley and the Yale Law School. Professor Desai’s scholarship examines how business interests, new technology, and economic theories shape privacy and intellectual property law and where those arguments explain productivity or where they fail to capture society’s interest in the free flow of information and development. His work has appeared in leading law reviews and journals including the Georgetown Law Journal, Minnesota Law Review, Notre Dame Law Review, Wisconsin Law Review, and U.C. Davis Law Review.

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3 Responses

  1. Devan– I’m not quite sure what your angle is here. I have a couple of observations. One, this is a case where a candidate leaps up to higher office, and bypasses the conventional vetting. Two, what appears to be resonating with voters is Franken’s failure to pay workers’ comp insurance on time.

    As for the can-we-trust-the-blogger angle here… well, “Minnesota Democrats Exposed” was reporting pretty hard facts here. MDE’s breaking news blog post from 3/4/08 landed in the Star-Tribune the next day. I still love Dan’s colorful phrase in FoR about living “in the twilight between fact and fiction” on the Internet. Well, when you have court documents and next-day paper coverage, I’d say night has fallen.

    And just as well, the political blogger is muckraker or cheerleader. If this sort of independent oppo research happened ten years ago, the headline would have read “Citizen muckrackers affect Senate race.”

    I also wonder whether some candidates or state parties are wise enough to hire their own internal muckrakers to dig through their own dirt.

  2. Deven says:


    I am not making a comment on the veracity of the specific Franken-Coleman information, although that seems important to you. Both sides seem to have some material that may or may not matter. The material may be true or not and maybe it should matter. Whether the information is backed up or not (regardless of party or interest group) is not always clear. So in this case if your information is correct, there may be solid useful information. Other such information may appear about the Republican Party in this race as well. How we sort the information and the impact of this new type of muckracker is what the post is getting at. The image is to remind that newspapers can doctor information or push agendas and have done so as can bloggers and other Web folks. The question of whom to trust persists but the impact of these smaller voices is larger.

    So put differently how sophisticated will society be in sorting good from bad information as more and more of it flows across the Web seems like a question that this event highlights.



  3. Deven,

    Indeed this does raise the question of trust. I had ventured an explanation as to how a reader could take this information and seek to verify it.

    Incidentally, I’m a Democrat and I’d be happy if the GOP lost every race this fall.

    This example was pretty cut-and-dry. There’s many better examples of information less vouched that is informing public debate. (like whether Comcast in particular was sending reset packets on last October. Wikipedia’s entries are fairly certain on this, but it’s not clear from the source material that a definitive explanation was produced.)