CoverMedia Literacy Activities for Learning Civics ConceptsDefining Critical Media LiteracyChapter 1. Foundations of the United States Political SystemTopic 1: Democracy in Social Media Policies and Community StandardsTopic 2: The Internet as a Public UtilityTopic 3: 21st Century Women STEM InnovatorsTopic 4: Media Coverage of Kings, Queens, and Royal FamiliesTopic 5: Representations of Native Americans in Films, Local History Publications, and School MascotsChapter 2. The Development of United States GovernmentTopic 1: Declarations of Independence on Social MediaTopic 2: Media Marketing and Government Regulating of Self-Driving Cars and Electric VehiclesTopic 3: Representations of and Racism Toward Black Americans in the MediaTopic 4: Political Debates Through Songs from Hamilton: An American MusicalTopic 5: Bill of Rights on TwitterChapter 3. Institutions of United States GovernmentTopic 1: Hollywood Movies About the Branches of GovernmentTopic 2: Writing an Impeachment Press ReleaseTopic 3: Members of Congress' Use of Social MediaTopic 4: Political Impacts of Public Opinion PollsTopic 5: Website Design for New Political PartiesChapter 4. The Rights and Responsibilities of CitizensTopic 1: Immigration in the NewsTopic 2: Portrayals of Immigrants in Television and FilmTopic 3: COVID-19 Information EvaluationTopic 4: Women Political Leaders in the MediaTopic 5: Online Messaging by Special Interest GroupsTopic 6: Digital Games for Civic EngagementTopic 7: Social Media and the ElectionsTopic 8: Media Spin in the Coverage of Political DebatesTopic 9: Celebrities' Influence on PoliticsTopic 10: Political Activism Through Social MediaTopic 11: Media Recruitment of Public Sector WorkersTopic 12: Images of Teachers and TeachingTopic 13: For Whom Is and Could Your School Be NamedTopic 14: Representing Trans IdentitiesTopic 15: Media Framing of the Events of January 6, 2021Topic 16: Music as Protest ArtTopic 17: PACs, Super PACs, and Unions in the MediaChapter 5. The Constitution, Amendments, and Supreme Court DecisionsTopic 1: Prohibition in the MediaTopic 2: The Equal Rights Amendment on Twitter and Other Social MediaTopic 3: Civil War News Stories and Recruitment AdvertisementsTopic 4: Representations of Gender and Race on CurrencyTopic 5: The Equality Act on TwitterTopic 6: Reading Supreme Court Dissents AloudTopic 7: Television Cameras in CourtroomsChapter 6. The Structure of State and Local GovernmentTopic 1: Native American Mascots and LogosTopic 2: A Constitution for the InternetTopic 3: Military Recruitment and the MediaTopic 4: Your Privacy on Social MediaTopic 5: Pandemic Policy Information in the MediaTopic 6: Gendered Language in Media Coverage of Women in PoliticsTopic 7: Environmental Campaigns Using Social MediaTopic 8: Trusted Messengers, the Media, and the PandemicTopic 9: Online Campaigning for Political OfficeTopic 10: Advertising the Lottery Online and In PrintTopic 11: Local Governments, Social Media and Digital DemocracyTopic 12: Protecting the CommonsChapter 7. Freedom of the Press and News/Media LiteracyTopic 1: Press Freedom in the United States and the WorldTopic 2: Objectivity and Reporting the News from All SidesTopic 3: Investigative Journalism and Social ChangeTopic 4: News Photographs & Newspaper DesignTopic 5: How Reporters Report EventsTopic 6: Recommendation Algorithms on Social Media PlatformsTopic 7: Fake News Investigation and EvaluationTopic 8: Paywalls and Access to Online NewsTopic 9: Critical Visual Analysis of Online and Print MediaTopic 10: Memes and TikToks as Political Cartoons

Topic 9: Online Campaigning for Political Office

In Massachusetts, like most states, voters elect people to multiple positions in state government: Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of the Commonwealth (or Secretary of State), Attorney General, Treasurer, Auditor, Governor's Council Member, State Senator, and State Representative. In some states, people also elect State Supreme Court Justices while in others judges are appointed, not elected. You can learn more at Who Are My Elected Officials? 

Political campaign posters at the Hine Junior High School, 8th St. near intersection with D St., SE, Washington, D.C
Political campaign posters at the Hine Junior High School, 8th St. near intersection with D St., SE, Washington, D.C | Public Domain

Crafting an image and creating a memorable slogan are key ingredients for anyone campaigning for political office. Historian David S. Reynolds (2020) recounts how the image of Abraham Lincoln as the "Illinois Rail-Splitter" helped propel him to the White House in 1860: "the symbols fit the candidate: Lincoln had split rails, he had lived in frontier cabins; he had piloted flatboats; and so forth" (p. 491). In recent elections, successful Presidential candidates have had memorable slogans: "All the Way with LBJ" for Lyndon Johnson in 1964, "Let's Make America Great Again" for Ronald Reagan in 1980, and "Change We Can Believe In" for Barack Obama in 2008.

Social media has become a powerful tool for candidates running for political offices. Researchers have demonstrated that new political candidates (those running for office for the first time) can receive substantial boosts in financial donations and public recognition using Twitter as a campaign marketing tool (Petrova, Sen, & Yildirim, 2020). The advantages of social media for political candidates are clear: Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites are: 1) free to use and 2) can reach large numbers of potential voters - both essential for successful election campaigns.

However, in the current highly polarized political climate of the U.S. and other democracies around the world, some online campaigners actively engage in deceptive claims, hateful or violent speech, and outright disinformation. Social media companies have been slow to respond to these anti-democratic practices. In Fall 2021, in advance of Spring 2022 elections, Dutch political parties and Internet/social media platforms (Facebook, Google, Snapchat, and TikTok) agreed to the "Netherlands Code of Conduct Transparency Online Political Advertisements." In agreeing to this first-ever online code of conduct, those running for office in Holland promise not to post misleading messages, hateful content, or take hidden donations from foreign sources. 

In the following activities, imagine that you have decided to run for a political office in your state's government. Since considerable amounts of time and money are involved in traveling the state and meeting voters face-to-face, you have decided to do most of your campaigning online. What office will you run for? How will you organize your online campaign? What image and what slogan will you create to help voters identify with you positively as a candidate? What personal code of conduct will you abide by while campaigning online?

Activity 1Design an Online Political Campaign for a State Political Office

Activity 2: Design Your Personal Code of Conduct for Online Campaigning

Additional Resources

Connecting to the Standards

  • Massachusetts Civics & Government Standards
    • Explain the leadership structure of the government of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the function of each branch. (Massachusetts Curriculum Framework for History and Social Studies) [8.T6.8]
  • ISTE Standards
    • Digital Citizen
      • 2c: Students demonstrate an understanding of and respect for the rights and obligations of using and sharing intellectual property.
    • Knowledge Constructor
      • 3a: Students plan and employ effective research strategies to locate information and other resources for their intellectual or creative pursuits.
      • 3d: Students build knowledge by actively exploring real-world issues and problems, developing ideas and theories and pursuing answers and solutions.
    • Creative Communicator
      • 6a: Students choose the appropriate platforms and tools for meeting the desired objectives of their creation or communication.
      • 6b: Students create original works or responsibly repurpose or remix digital resources into new creations.
      • 6d: Students publish or present content that customizes the message and medium for the intended audiences.
  • DLCS Standards
    • Ethics and Laws (CAS.b)
    • Digital Tools (DTC.a)
    • Collaboration and Communication (DTC.b)
    • Research (DTC.c)
  • English Language Arts > History/Social Studies Common Core Standards
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.7
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.7