Revolutionizing political advertising

Joel Spolsky:

The dismal corruption of congress has gotten it to the point where lobbying for legislation is out of control. As Larry Lessig has taught us, the core rottenness originates from the high cost of running political campaigns, which mostly just goes to TV stations.

A solution is for the Internet industry to start giving free advertising to political campaigns on our own new media assets… assets like YouTube that are rapidly displacing television. Imagine if every political candidate had free access (under some kind of “equal time” rule) to enough advertising inventory on the Internet to run a respectable campaign. Sure, candidates can still pay to advertise on television, but the cost of campaigning would be a lot lower if every candidate could run geo-targeted pre-roll ads on YouTube, geo-targeted links at the top of Reddit.com, even targeted campaigns on Facebook. If the Internet can donate enough inventory (and I suspect we can), we can make it possible for a candidate to get elected without raising huge war chests from donors who are going to want something in return, and we may finally get to a point where every member of congress isn’t in permanent outstretched-hand mode.

I think this is a brilliant idea. Technology companies proved that they can influence politics in their preferred direction (which, fortunately, was preferred by almost everyone) with their participation in the successful campaign against SOPA and PIPA, but many companies also have the power to revolutionize politics beyond specific issues. Online advertising is a huge industry, and if companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter were to provide a certain amount of free advertising to all candidates, it would reduce one of the biggest barriers to running a political campaign.

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