New York state Senate Democrats and Republicans are at odds over some recent uses of Facebook as a campaign tool in upcoming state elections.
In a letter Friday to the Senate Republican Campaign Committee, Joe Landry, chairman of the Schenectady County Democratic Party, raised concerns about some uses of the social media site. The concern surrounds pages that specifically attack Democratic candidates, sometimes using the word “REAL” in front of the candidate’s name. The letter references the possibility that Republican operatives, or the committee itself, are behind the pages.
“These forums for generating hate speech, malicious lies and threatening rhetoric have no place in political campaigns,” Landry wrote.
The letter was written just a few weeks after a Facebook page targeting Democrat Sara Niccoli, who is running against Sen. George Amedore in the 46th district, led to threatening and malicious comments that prompted a police investigation and the page to be taken down.
A page titled “The REAL Sara Niccoli” criticized the candidate for not reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Niccoli follows Quaker beliefs that followers don’t take pledges or oaths. She stands and places her hand over her heart for the pledge, but does not recite it. Commenters made hateful comments in response, telling her to die or leave the country.
Scott Reif, a spokesman for Republicans, said the party uses many different tools to communicate with voters, including social media.
“Yes we have spent resources to promote our members and our message on Facebook,” he said. He added that the party has a policy not to discuss internal strategy, “even if doing so would disprove a bogus conspiracy theory by New York City Democrats and their allies.” The Democratic campaign efforts are led by Sen. Mike Gianaris of Queens.
It remains unclear who exactly is behind the posts and pages Landry references, but Facebook users can pay to have posts boosted so that they are visible to more people in news feeds. The letter, which is supported by campaign filings, notes that Republicans have spent $28,000 in the past four months on Facebook.
Landry said the similarity among the pages attacking Democrats “leads one to conclude that these are clearly coordinated efforts by professional campaign operatives.”
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Categories: News, Schenectady County