Google gets political with Australian elections website

Google has stepped into the political arena with a new website covering the Australia elections.

Google gets political with Australian elections website

The website employs a wide-range of Google’s services to provide direct coverage of the Australian elections. To avoid accusations of political bias, all six parties represented in Australia’s federal parliament are covered on the site.

For example, the site uses Google Maps to provide an overview of the current political landscape in Australia, including information on individual candidates, seat numbers and safety margins in the states, as well as details of the competing parties.

Typing in a postcode brings up a local map with party colour shading representing areas of control, along with lists of local candidates and their affiliations.

The site also ascribes each party their own channel on YouTube, where candidates can attack their opposition, post election broadcasts and comments, with Prime Minister John Howard being one of the early adopters.

There’s also a channel for voters to voice their own opinions and concerns as the election progresses, setting up the possibility of direct Q&A events as was recently seen in the US 2008 presidential campaign, where candidates answered questions posted on YouTube by voters.

“At Google, we believe that democracy on the web works, and also that the web can work for democracy,” says the company on its Australian blog.

“These products, spanning across our Search, Maps, News, video, Earth, Trends, and iGoogle properties, will allow Australians to organise and digest election information more easily than ever. You can see the political landscape in Google Maps. You can access the latest news and information on your personalised Google homepage. Or you can have your say at Google’s Australia Votes channel on YouTube.”

“It’s really interesting but ultimately these things don’t really appeal to people who aren’t interested in politics anyway,” comments Julia Clark, Head of Political Research at Ipsos-Mori.

Asked if she could see a similar roll out in the UK at the next elections she responds, “If all the parties agreed they’d probably jump at it but there are dangers. The tories already have webcameron so they don’t really need this. Plus, by aligning with Google, they might find themselves putting off those who don’t like the Google brand.”

Speaking about the possible participation of the BNP if such a service does appear she adds,”I would anticipate that they [Google] would have to allow them, they’re recognised by the electoral commission, but Google might not want to associate its brand with their message, but it can’t deny them without becoming politicized.”

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