Last week, the Obama campaign declared that it would text-message supporters to announce the choice of running mate. Alice Marwick, a 31-year-old graduate student in Manhattan, was among those to sign up. And on Wednesday, she got a text message that set her heart aflutter. "Thank you for your support," it said. "Barack wants you to know he has chosen Hillary Clinton as his VP." The "from" number matched the number the campaign had given out. But after sharing an excited phone call, she and her boyfriend started searching online, and couldn't find a news report confirming the pick. Hmm, her boyfriend said. This might be a hoax.
One of many, it turns out. The past two days have seen reports of phony text messages touting Obama's running mate as everyone from Clinton to Indiana Senator Evan Bayh to Virginia governor Tim Kaine. (An Obama campaign spokesman joked to MSNBC that she'd gotten a text message saying the choice was two-year-old Suri Cruise.) The sources appear to be manifold: Marwick found a post on the website Wonkette that gave precise instructions on how to send an authentic-looking phony VP message. One circulating rumor suggested that an Obama intern had pre-programmed an official text message, then erroneously hit "send" instead of "save."
The Obama campaign has used text messages since the primary to tell voters about election results, debate information, and last-minute TV appearances, said campaign spokesman Nick Shapiro. The vice-presidential text also seemed way to reward grass-roots supporters who had worked on the campaign, he said.
It also seemed a way to differentiate Obama from rival John McCain, who has said that he doesn't use the Internet, says Marwick, who studies new media as a PhD candidate at New York University. But the hoaxes have proven how easy it is to hijack new technology, she said. She's sure her own Hillary message came from one of her friends. She just isn't sure which one. "No one I know will admit to it yet," she said. "But Iím sure it will come out sooner or later."
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.