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Sweet column: Joe Anthony, at the center of the Obama MySpace controversy rebuts campaign blog.

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SANTA MONICA, Calif. -- Joe Anthony, at the center of a raging debate over the role of netroots volunteers in Barack Obama's presidential bid, said Sunday his once ardent support for him is shaken as a result of the Obama campaign taking over the Obama MySpace page Anthony created.

"I am not as staunch a supporter like I was in the beginning," he told me.


Anthony is the 29-year-old Los Angeles paralegal who in November 2004 launched an Obama page on MySpace, the social networking site, attracting 160,000 "friends." Last Wednesday, the Obama campaign, wanting total control of the page, shut him down, replacing his content with official information from the campaign and leaving in the wake a dispute over whether Anthony was fairly treated.

A passionate discussion about the Anthony controversy on the official Obama campaign blog -- 400 comments Sunday as I write this -- is drawing more reaction than any other blog entry on www.barackobama.com, a sign that the episode touched a raw nerve in a campaign that is emphasizing new media and encouraging supporters to organize on their own.

Obama New Media Director Joe Rospars posted the blog entry. At 7:35 p.m. Saturday, Anthony posted a pointed rebuttal to Rospars at http://myspace.com/skyscraper nationalpark.

The 2008 presidential campaign marks the first time candidates are making extensive use of newly evolving Internet tools. Anthony's clash with the Obama campaign is a first -- a mainstream campaign trying to harness the political organizing potential of Internet networking while wanting to control an independent (but friendly) page drawing a tremendous number of followers.

"I'm stressed," Anthony told me when we talked. Though I was a few miles away, he did not want to meet in person, so I interviewed him over the phone. He was sparse with biographical details, a little freaked, I surmised, from being thrust into the spotlight as the first netroots activist to battle a campaign he thought he was helping.

The Ohio native studied classical guitar and was a music major in college. "I have no background in politics other than this page," he said. He simply wanted to change the world.

Obama himself called Anthony on Wednesday night --"out of the blue," he said. Anthony said Obama, in the few minutes they talked, told him there were "lessons to be learned by everybody" over the MySpace standoff, but Obama told him "he stands by his staff."

Anthony took the Obama call as well meaning but a move to "guilt me into backing down."

Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton said, "We're up to about 45,000 friends on our MySpace page and we look forward to building our successful relationship with members of that community."

The relationship with Anthony is still raw. Posted Anthony, "Regardless of the campaign's intentions, the campaign quashed not only my right to have this profile, but the very hope that inspired me to build it.''


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12 Comments

I read your article regarding poor Mr. Anthony being "stressed". Perhaps it is for the following reasons:

First, how could he have begun a myspace page for Senator Obama in 2004, 2 years ago? No, in fact he began in approximately in February after Senator Obama announced. I myself almost fell prey to the fact it was the ACTUAL Senator Obama. He put up a photo, and gave all of Senator Obama's vital statistics in the "information about yourself" section. Making people believe it was the REAL Senator Obama. He gained friends, because many, brand new to politics, would not know to look beneath the surface. And if you ever looked at some of the myspace profiles, there are thousands that are inappropriate, with foul language, naked photos, and just plain inappropriate language. If you are a reporter and saw an actual myspace page of a REAL Presidential Candidate, you reporters would jump all over that fact.

Second: I just did a blog post about an article I read regarding someone who was excited to sign up on myspace and be on the REAL Senator Obama page, but ended up deleting him because he was getting SPAMMED with nonstop bulletins. I refer you to this article:

Sorry, Barack, 'friends' don't trade spam

By Brian Frazer
For the Los Angeles Times
May 05. 2007 8:00AM

Despite being 43 years old, I was talked into starting a MySpace page to help promote my book. However, in my scramble to collect friends, I've set up some fairly rigid guidelines: pretty girls, yes, but no strippers; comics I've met, yes; comics I haven't, no; anyone who confuses "you're" and "your," you're out.
Then, while perusing a sea of tiny head shots on MySpace, I saw him. It was a no-brainer. I clicked on "add to friends," crossed my fingers and waited. The following morning, my prayers were answered. He said yes! Barack Obama and I were officially pals. Although I had no idea what a pain he'd be.

In case you've never experienced the majesty of MySpace, here's the deal. If someone with a MySpace page has an important event coming up - say a heavy metal band performing at a dive bar - he sends out a bulletin to all his "friends." But it better be important. Because everyone knows that valuable computer time should not be interrupted by spam and frivolous announcements. Everyone except Obama.

Here are some of the bulletins he's bombarded me with recently:

SUBJECT: NEW VIDEOS

Barack announced that he "just put two new videos" on his page. Which isn't really a reason to brag. I mean, I have five videos on YouTube and don't feel the need to tell everyone in my address book. Plus, at the end of the bulletin, he adds that he's "working on getting some podcasts back on the page." If you can't figure out MySpace, are you ready to run a country?

Subject: We're on our way to 100,000!

I had no idea what this meant, but it piqued my curiosity enough to click and read on. He's getting all cocky about the number of "friends" he's approaching. Hey, I'm approaching 100,000 friends - albeit really, really slowly. Save this bulletin for when you have half as many acquaintances as Dane Cook.

• Subject: faces for Obama

The "urgent news" this time is that Obama wants to create a photo mosaic with 1,000 supporters. And then what happens to this magnificent creation? You frame it and sell it in the MoMA gift shop, Barack? How many of those would you sell? My guess is way under 1,000 (which, based on your shabby logic, also is "on your way to 100,000"). If I had my druthers, I'd rather you abandon this picture-taking fetish and concentrate on convincing the administration the Bible's not a science book.

• Subject: MoveOn members?

"Please vote in their online poll!" Ease up, Barack! We just had a big election before Thanksgiving, and we've got another one coming up in a year and a half. If I were you, I'd lay off on the voting stuff now so you don't burn people out before 2008. Remember, it's a marathon, not a sprint. (Or is it the other way around?)

• Subject: Atlanta folks?

Okay, Okay, Okay. You're going to be in Atlanta. However, if you read my profile, you'd know that I'm in Los Angeles. I mean, I read your profile and know that you're straight and looking for "networking and friends." What kind of friend are you that you don't know where I live? It hurts.

Before a potential bulletin about "What a Delicious Dinner" or "My Dog Just Caught a Frisbee" appeared on my screen, I called up Obama's profile, clicked "delete" and dropped him as a MySpace pal. Bottom line: I think he'd make a great president. But as a friend, he's a little too high-maintenance.

(Brian Frazer is the author of the new memoir Hyper-chondriac: One Man's Quest to Hurry Up and Calm Down.)

------ End of article

By BRIAN FRAZER

For the Los Angeles Times

Now first of all, ALL of Senator Obama's appearances are on his official campaign website.

Secondly, sending out a notice they were approaching 100,000 friends is obviously from Joe Anthony, as of this morning before his staff gets in, there are 47,600 friends in 4 days the OFFICIAL page has added. I have to tell you when I checked out the myspace page of Joe Anthony's because I was just checking myself to see if Senator Obama had a page, I myself was almost fooled into believing it until I checked it out and saw so many inappropriate photos and comments.

Joe Anthony was SPAMMING friends he had gained by using Senator Obama's name. He then, through again SPAMMING those very same friends (someone sent me a note about it) asked them to go and post demands on Senator Obama's new page to be honorable and pay Joe Anthony, and also to go to the official site blog and post demands there, thereby trying to disrupt an official campaign of a sitting US Senator. Now since I have joined as a "friend" on the REAL Senator Obama's page, I have not received a SINGLE SPAMMING BULLETIN from the campaign staff. Thank God I never signed up on Joe Anthony's page. Now, the campaign must have received many complaints such as the person in the above article, and when attempting to take some control over the content that was being put out under the name of Barack Obama, Joe Anthony "locked them out" by changing the password. After doing so, he told them they could have the password if they paid him $39,000 plus $10,000 to maintain the page, which I must remind you is FREE to anyone who wants one. Instead. Myspace chose to provide OFFICIAL pages for ALL CANDIDATES which would allow them to control content sent out under their names. Joe Anthony did not OWN the name Barack Obama, had no right to take over the name thereby preventing Senator Obama from putting up his own official page because his name was already in use. He had no choice, I mean his campaign had no choice but to insist he not use Barack Obama's name. Senator Obama did not ask to take over the 160,000 "friends" some of which I must tell you are downright outrageous in their postings and posting of photos that are to put it kindly, rather risque.

I have found since joining myspace just the same day Senator Obama's staff put up the official one, have received non-stop friend requests from people who have their pages full of advertisements, trying to make me click on them so they can earn money by referrals to the various sites. This is a free page and they have now caught on to being able to make money by putting up advertisements, like for example: Make Money by taking Surveys, etc. Some, knowing a little technical stuff, immediately have popup ads when you go to check their profile to see if you want to add them as a "friend" and you have to close a multitude of popup windows. Now I can see the headlines now: Senator Obama making money for campaign on myspace. The campaign just could not allow Joe Anthony to use Senator Obama's name in this manner. I don't care how hurt he is. I have been VOLUNTEERING my time as a supporter since February as have thousands and thousands of others and as the word says, VOLUNTEER, you don't expect payment. But Joe Anthony only asked to be paid for Barack Obama's name AFTER the campaign had to step in and control what was going out under his name.

It is common sense to expect ANY camaign to ensure that all FEC guidelines are followed, that inappropriate emails and bulletins SPAMMING the 'friends" were not accepted by 160,000 people as coming from the REAL Barack Obama. So for Joe Anthony to be "stressed" it is due to the fact he is attempting now to get people to post demands on his behalf, still trying to get the campaign to pay him. They 'Did" offer him a job in Chicago under their direction so they could be sure all content was appropriate but he refused the offer. He got the courtesy of a call from Senator Obama. There are hundreds of thousands of volunteers who would have loved a call from Senator Obama as busy as he is to thank them, but that isn't enough for Joe Anthony. No, he has to trash the Senator to reporters.

I know from your writings you are no fan of Senator Obama, but this is getting rediculous and isn't Joe Anthony's 15 minutes of fame up now?

I don't think Obama has any idea how this changes people's perception of him. You spend a few years building a profile, making contacts, and meeting new people, then some politician takes your profile away from you because it becomes too popular.

If the Obama campaign would do something like this now, what will happen if he becomes president? Maybe he will try to take away our civil liberties as well, all in the name of improving his public image. You make think that it's a ridiculous comparision, but in the eyes of web bloggers and computer people, it feels a lot like Big Brother stomping on our liberties.

Obama just lost my vote. (I put an alias because I'm afraid Obama will try to take my profile next.)

You aren't posting any of the comments for this blog. Maybe you are guilty of doing the same thing that Obama's doing. Granted, it is your blog and you can post whatever comments you want. I just didn't expect that from a Newspaper woman who should be all for Freedom of Speech.

Even I am sick to death of this story. I was irritated with the way the Obama campaign handled it and wrote them to tell them so, but this guy needs to move on at this point. Now he believes Obama was trying to "guilt" him into backing down? I'm starting to understand the problem the Obama campaign had with this guy...

Obama lost my vote on this one! Paying the guy was not only the smart thing to do, but also the right thing to do.

Obama likes to talk about a "differnt kind of politics". My a#s!

Even after reading the whole story (about how Joe Anthony tried to get money from Obama and "lock him out" from using his name), I still think Joe Anthony should not have lost the Obama profile.

What is the Obama campaign saying? Anytime someone owns the UserName of Barack Obama, they have to give it up? They have rights to the Barack Obama UserName on every web site all over the world? Get real!!

Look at the big picture... MySpace is supposed to be about free speech. Now they have taken away Anthony's right to have any profile/UserName he chooses. It's about who has the money and power and who doesn't... Obama has the money and power, and Anthony doesn't. Obama lost my vote too, and I'm not using MySpace anymore either. MySpace just sold themselves out to the Obama Campaign.

Politics 2.0 Hears Today From Joe Anthony - Twice. Joe: "There isn't really a way to resolve anything between me and the campaign, and these guys certainly have more power than I do!"
http://hammer2006.blogspot.com/2007/05/politics-2_05.html

Joe Anthony: My comments on the campaign's official blog on my.barackobama.com (by Joe Rospars) - Joe Anthony MySpace Post
http://hammer2006.blogspot.com/2007/05/joe-anthony-my-comments-on-campaigns.html

I have been a member of Joe's "BarackObama" page since October 2006. None of the details depicted by Brian Frazer occurred in the fashion he describes. I have referred many friends and family for the main reason it was not an "official" campaign page.. Joe rarely rarely EVER sends out a Bulletin. The site is approachable and user friendly and it was being a "Blog" subscriber that I chose to use as medium for learning more about the candidate I was intererested in. I even registered and considered being an open house sponser and fully intend to donate my time to Obama. Do I believe still that Obama can fix this mess his staff created. Yes. But the more time that passes the less enthusiasm I have this will happen.

However, until this matter is resolved it greatly jepordizes a community. A community of supporters who true ideals and visions for a better future and solutions in moving our country forward.

Obviously Brian Frazer was not part of the same site under question as those actions never occurred. No SPAMMING ever occurred under Joe's administrative. Joe has remained professional at all times and in all negoatiations.
However the Obama staff appall me as well as you Brian Frazer for all the lies regarding the inaccuracies of this negotiation.

Intellectual Property is just that. Obama campaign wanted what Joe had built. Obama campaign negotiated for what Joe had built. Obama campaign TOOK AND DESTROYED what Joe had built. Except for the supporters of Joe that remain. We will rebuild our community under Joe's leadership. Which direction we go is not yet determined. But it will be a great one.

Clarification of/to Brian Frazier post. Yes few bulletins he mentioned occurred, not in the dramatic fashion he depicts, but all those were done at the recommendation of Obama staff. It was evident when "they" arrived. However, still done professional and were minimally intrusive and given in the context of sharing information regarding Barack volunteer opportunities or how to get involved. This is not "spamming" as Mr. Frazier depicts.

Clarification of/to Brian Frazier post. Yes few bulletins he mentioned occurred, not in the dramatic fashion he depicts, but all those were done at the recommendation of Obama staff. It was evident when "they" arrived. However, still done professional and were minimally intrusive and given in the context of sharing information regarding Barack volunteer opportunities or how to get involved. This is not "spamming" as Mr. Frazier depicts.

I really hope you don't let this story die. What Obama did alienated an entire community and strikes fear in bloggers everywhere. It almost felt like desperation on the part of the Obama campaign. What were they so afraid of? Obama just lost my vote.

Entire Site to be deleted in the morning and a community is gone. All at the hand of his staff. Nothing to negotiate now. History is made. Obama too late in stepping up. Yet, perhaps that was the plan all along.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on May 7, 2007 7:08 AM.

Sweet: Obama camp asks Secret Service for flex fuel car. In Detroit today to push automakers for high gas mileage cars. was the previous entry in this blog.

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