In an early social media skirmish in the 2012 campaign, a conservative political group claims to have forced Facebook to temporarily shut down the event page for President Obama's online town hall meeting after steering hundreds of negative comments to the site.
ForAmerica, a group that sprung up online during the debate over Obama's health care reform law, urged its nearly 1 million Facebook fans to swarm the landing page Facebook was using to collect questions to pose to him at Wednesday afternoon's live forum. They suggested users post the same message, criticizing him for adding $3.5 trillion to the national event and saying, "The first thing we should do is repeal Obamacare."
According to a screen shot provided by the group, the deluge led to the page being listed at one point as "unavailable." A spokesman said it was down for 40 minutes, and that when it returned users could only post comments on the wall if they indicated they would "attend" the town hall first.
"We are only beginning to see the untapped power of this growing, formidable online army," Brent Bozell, chairman of ForAmerica, said in a statement.
A Facebook spokesman would not confirm that the page was down, saying only that the company is "honored that President Obama is visiting Facebook today and is using our platform to communicate directly with an international audience."
Another spokesman said that the page was now "up and running," and has netted thousands of questions and comments for the president.
The cyber-battle shows just how much the dynamics of campaigns are shifting in the social media era.