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U.S. Department of State - Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Social Media and the 2016 Election

Nu Wexler, Manager of Public Policy Communications, Twitter
Philadelphia, PA
July 27, 2016

Date: 07/27/2016 Location: Philadelphia, PA Description: Nu Wexler, Manager of Public Policy Communications at Twitter, talks about the role of social media in the elections at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. - State Dept Image

3:00 P.M. EDT


MODERATOR: Hello again, and welcome to the FPC’s briefing space at the DNC. I just wanted to remind folks that all our briefings are streamed live on and we have transcripts posted and video posted there – posted on dvids.hub – on the DVIDS hub. All of our briefings are on the record, and our briefers’ views are their own and do not reflect U.S. Government policy. And lastly, as we move to the Q&A portion of the event, please state your name and outlet for the transcript and look out for the microphone, which could be coming from your left or your right.

Without further ado, I want to introduce Nu Wexler, Twitter policy spokesperson, who is here to discuss social media and the 2016 election. Without further ado, here is Nu.

MR WEXLER: Hi, thanks for having me today. I’m excited to be here. This is my sixth Democratic Convention, but this is the first one where I’ve done something like this. I think this is a great service that State is able to provide to give people from all over the world a place to talk to folks and things that are going on in the U.S. election.

So really quick, I know you guys are busy: How many of you guys use Twitter and use it as part of your reporting here and like day to day? Okay, so that’s a good sign. I don’t need to talk a whole lot about the basics, but for those not familiar, we are a service of – an online service of 140 characters, where you can post short messages, you can post links, you can post video. We have live broadcasts through a service called Periscope that some of you may be using here, and we’re continuing to add new things every day.

Some basic topline stats from this election, the things that we are seeing on Twitter so far. I think that at the beginning of the election cycle, every online platform sort of – they have their plans for the election and they wonder how different candidates will use it. And we have been thrilled with both in the primary and so far in the general election with how candidates are using the platform. I think that early on in the – particularly the Republican Party with Donald Trump and his love and constant use of Twitter, it has kept people focused on the platform and looking to see what sort of things he’s going to be saying and the announcement that he was going to – the announcement that he was making first and on Twitter.

So we are thrilled that both the Republican and Democratic candidates announced their running mates on Twitter and continue to make other announcements and go back and forth with each other and with reporters and others about the election. We like – we think that our platform, because it’s fast, it’s live, and in real time, we think it’s a great platform for candidates to get their message out fast and share their views and positions with the world.

The – another sort of interesting stat: We had the most tweeted – or the moment with the most engagement, some of you may remember, was when Hillary Clinton retweeted or quote tweeted Donald Trump with “Delete your account” fairly recently. That was her highest engagement on a tweet. And when Donald Trump replied to her after that, that was his highest engagement on a single tweet.

So those are some of the topline stats. I’d love to answer questions about what we’re doing and Twitter in general, if you have them.

QUESTION: Hi. My name is Lauri Tankler with the Estonian Public Broadcasting. I have a question about trolling.


QUESTION: Because a lot of us journalists, we – once we report on a particular campaign, most likely the Trump campaign or – and now there have been – there’s been widespread reports of verbal abuse, and now that Russia has been added into the mix with the Trump campaign – Russian online trolls have been doing that same.

So how has Twitter been able to clamp down on those kind of things? I remember you guys were actively trying to combat trolling in that sense.

MR WEXLER: We are.

QUESTION: What are you doing? How is it going?

MR WEXLER: Yeah. We – we’re – it is a top priority for us. Our CEO addressed that in our earnings call yesterday, and we have – we are committed to working on safety as an issue for the platform. We have – we look at it in two ways. I think that, one, it is a policy issue that as people are using the platform in different ways and interacting around particularly heated areas like politics, we are constantly updating our policies to address different forms of abuse and different things that we feel that we don’t want on the platform, and we’ve been very aggressive on that.

The second is product updates. So we are constantly working to find better ways for you to control your experience on the platform. And in some ways it’s as simple as blocking and muting people who are abusive on the platform, and in other ways it’s a matter of reporting them to – reporting accounts to us either through reporting multiple tweets or reporting accounts. And we’re looking for ways to speed that up. Twitter is a little unique because it’s faster and it’s entirely public, so everything that goes on, all of these exchanges are entirely public, which isn’t the case for every platform. So – and also I think the real-time speed of Twitter means that people tend to reply in the heat of the moment, and you see responses 10 seconds after you tweet it. So we know that the speed of Twitter presents unique challenges, but it’s something that we are working on and we’ve been continuing to do that, and I think you’ll see updates over the next few months.

QUESTION: Hi, I’m Daisuke Nakae from Asahi Shimbun of Japan. Thank you very much. Twitter was already pretty big for the election four years ago. I think the photo of Barack Obama hugging Michelle Obama, “Four more years,” that was the most retweeted tweet of all time at that point.


QUESTION: What’s the biggest difference you’re seeing from four years ago in this election, either from the politicians’ side or user side or trend sides? What are the big differences you’re seeing?

MR WEXLER: I don’t – like, off the top of my head, I think that if you went back and looked at the ’08 elections and the ’12 elections, I think that during those conventions, I think a lot of it was we were working with candidates to get them on the platform and to help them use it. I think that now it’s a little different. There is fortunately this assumption that candidates will be on Twitter. So we’re – I think that for us, we’re just – we’re looking at live broadcasting. That’s something that’s very different. I can’t remember in 2012 – I know we didn’t have video. I think we had – I think we had still images. But we’re constantly looking for new mediums that people can use.

So I think that’s the single biggest difference, is that there are more ways for people to use the platform, for candidates to use the platform.

All right.

QUESTION: Thank you. My name is David McCagg with NHK News.


QUESTION: I was just wondering if there – Twitter will be doing anything to reach out to younger voters in this election?

MR WEXLER: Definitely. We are – I think that sort of generally speaking, younger voters are going – are getting more election information on the internet and on social media and on Twitter in particular. It is – on the way over, I’m looking for my colleague Nick in the back – but we talked a little bit about a stat – we talked a little bit about a stat where voters under 25 are getting a – the vast majority of their information. It’s not necessarily from reading entirely on social media, but they’re finding news and getting links to your stories almost entirely online – almost entirely on social media.

MODERATOR: (Off-mike.)

MR WEXLER: Thanks.

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