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Open Password – Donnerstag,
den 20. Februar 2020

# 709


Social Media – Elia Johannes Panskus – American Power Structure – Minorities – Afro-Americans – Hispanics – Asians – Women – – – Networks – Public Funds – Washington Post – American Journal of Political Science – White Americans – Instagram – Education – Age Groups – Arab Spring – YouTube – Mobilisation – Fundraising – Donald Trump – Black Lives Matter – Fridays for Future- vfm – vfm-Frühjahrstagung

Social Media

A tool to empower minorities
in American politics?


By Elia Johannes Panskus, Carl Duisberg Fellow 2019, New York

Part Two


Minorities in American politics


Even though the 116th Congress is the most racially and ethnically diverse ever, many nonwhite groups in the House are somewhat less represented relative to their share of the population. While Members of the Congress who are black now on par with their share of Americans who are black, the share in the U.S. population of Hispanics is twice as high as it is in the House, 18 percent to 9 percent. Asians account for 6percent of the national population but 3 percent of Congress members. There are just nine nonwhite Senators, unchanged from the 115th Congress.[1]

[1] “For the fifth time in a row, the new Congress is the most racially and ethnically diverse ever”, PEW Research Center, 2019

Demographics of Political Power

% white of…

Congress, considerably larger then their 61 percent share of the U.S. population overall. An interesting observation is also the fact, that the overwhelming majority of racial and ethnic nonwhite members are Democrats with 90 percent, while just 10 percent are Republicans. In addition, women are less represented in the Congress relative to their share in the American population. While 51 percent of the Americans are women, just 24 percent of the member of Congress are women. This value is even lower than the OECD average with 28 percent. In the German Bundestag the share of women is 31 percent, in Mexico it is even at 43 percent.

„It is a common observation that political representatives tend to be drawn from the elite stratum of society. Even where representatives are chosen through fair and democratic elections, it is often said that legislative assemblies remain “unrepresentative,” and, in particular, that they are under-representative of women, ethnic minorities, and the poorer and less educated social classes.“[1] There are many reasons, why women and ethnic minorities are underrepresented in American politics. However, especially two reasons have a big influence.

Money. It is not a talent gap, it is a financial gap. The final costs for the 2016 election were about 6.5 billion dollars, according to About 2.4 billion dollars were spent on the presidential contest and about 4 billion dollars went to congressional races. Candidate for Senate Beto O`Rourke collected 38 million dollars in three months for his campaign. In 2016 an average winning Senate candidate had to spent 10.4 million dollars in one election cycle. In addition, factoring in outside spending nearly doubles the average cost of winning a Senate seat to 19.4 million dollars. A winning House candidate had to spend 1.3 million dollars in 2016. That was just the average. The biggest spending winner of a House bid with actual competition was Rep. Martha McSally, who spent 6.7 million dollars to secure her seat. Her Democratic opponent Matt Heinz just spent 1.3 million dollars in his unsuccessful campaign.[2] Therefore, it costs a lot of money to win a seat on the table in American political power structure. Moreover, often minorities do not have that much money. According to 76 percent of American millionaires are white and just 8 percent of them are African American, followed by Hispanics with 7 percent.

Network. However, there is a second factor next to money. Even if many of the wealthier white candidates do not have that much money to run a campaign, they do have influential networks, which provide them with large sums of money. Until the year 2000 candidates for presidential elections applied for public funds to finance their election campaigns. Since then no candidate applied for public funds anymore, because the spending limit is rigorous and the sums are too small. They are able to collect much more money from private sources and networks. The majority of lawmakers enters politics through either law or business, careers that confer money, status networks and psychological benefits on individuals. Quentin James, co-founder of the Collective PAC, which recruits and supports progressive black candidates, reported in the Washington Post that it is difficult to compete with the fundraising networks of white candidates. „Politics is not the kind of open, competitive playing field we’d like to think of it as. It’s more like trying to be inducted into a fraternity,“ Brenda Carter, director of the Reflective Democracy Campaign reminds us. A study of the Reflective Democracy Campaign in 2019, which looked at 33,854 candidates in the 2018 election, as well as 44,900 current elected officials showed, that both major parties, acting as gatekeepers, fall far short of fielding candidates who reflect the American society representatively. In the general election in 2018, over half of all contests had just one candidate and they were overwhelmingly white and male. 26 percent of these uncontested races were on a state legislature level.

A study published in the American Journal of Political Science, using network analysis with campaign finance data, did find out, that candidates who find themselves in a selective network do substantially better in elections than other candidates even controlling for the overall amount of campaign money they spend. The researcher argue, that when a party coalition converges on a candidate the coalition’s support sends a strong signal to attentive voters that the challenger supports the party agenda and stands a good chance of winning. These voters may have ties with such groups and comprise a significant portion of the electorate, particularly in primaries and low turnout general elections. Another benefit of a network support is that candidates derive electoral resources – beyond campaign contributions and group endorsements — in coordination with other groups in the coalition that boost candidate prospects.[3] An influential network therefore is almost necessary to be successful in American politics today.

[1]„ The Political Representation of Women and Ethnic Minorities in Established Democracies”, Department of Political Science McMaster University, Karen Bird, 2003


[3] “Being backed by extended party networks can mean a greater chance of electoral success for a Congressional challenger”, LSE US Centre Desmarais, La Raja, Kowal, 2014

Importance of Spending and Community
Backing in Political Campaigns


Social media and minorities

Social media is growing in the United States and is getting more and more important for communication. But social media is also changing within demographic groups in America. A study of the Youth Participatory Politics Research Network shows, that young people of color are the biggest consumers of new online forms of political media. African Americans, Latinos and Asian Americans were also the most active users of social media for political information.[1] And numbers of the PEW Research Center verify that evidence. These are the differences in usage of social media between white Americans and nonwhite Americans: In 2016 about 62 percent of white Americans used social media as a news channel, while this value was 64 percent for nonwhite Americans, just a difference of 2 percent. According to the PEW Research Center this changed in the following year. In 2017 74 percent of nonwhite Americans used Social Media as a news channel, while just 62 percent of white Americans in 2017 did.[2] Especially Instagram is a network which is used by minorities in the USA. According to the PEW Research Center 57 percent of minorities in the United States use Instagram. This means that nonwhites are now more likely than white Americans (64 percent) to get news on social media. Social media news use also increased to 69 percent in 2017 among those with less than a bachelor’s degree, surpassing those with a college degree or higher (63 percent).

[1] “How social media helps young people”, Washington Post, 2016

[2] “Key trends in social and digital news media” PEW Research Center, Bialik, Matsa, 2017

News Usage from Social Media Sites
by Age, Race and Education

% of U.S. adults who get nes from social media sites …

These numbers show that the Internet has opened up virtual spaces that bypass traditional gatekeepers. Historically marginalized groups, such as African American and Hispanics, can now discuss and get information about issues that affect their lives.[1] Especially Instagram but also Twitter are networks, which are used by high number of adult Americans with a minority background. Studies from 2014 show, that 27 percent of black Americans among Internet users use Twitter, 25 percent of Hispanic do so too and just 21 percent of white Americans.[2] A new study from 2019 shows that 40 percent of black Americans and 51 percent of Hispanics use the network Instagram. But just 33 percent of white Americans do so.[3] So social media is present in minority communities and can be a powerful tool for minority communities.


Social Media: A chance for minorities in US politics


Mobilization and Fundraising. The Internet has the potential to mobilize million of people. We watched the Arab Spring revolution in 2011 in which Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and several blogs were used as tools for mobilization.[4] As scholars have noted, partly due to its “public sphere” nature, social media create participation opportunities—such as boosting protest turnout or supporting fundraising campaigns—that broaden mobilization, thus helping scale movement endeavors. The Black Lives Matter movement is maybe the most famous example in the United States, were Social Media was of great importance. A participant in a study, which deals with the aspect of social media as a tool for mobilization said:

„[Social media] also allows us to be able to network, it allows people in another region to be like, “Okay, I send solidarity,” to say, “I feel you.” That gives you the extra push and rejuvenation that you need sometimes in this organizing field. And also, you are doing all this work but a lot of folks are not doing the work with you, right? But then a lot of people are having similar problems and doing similar work around the world and so it allows you to be like, ‘Okay, I see what you are doing. How did you get through that? Allright, okay. I’m gonna do that over here.’ And it allows us to be a whole network without being right in front of each other’s faces.“[5]

The experts with whom I spoke also support this statement: “Social media is one of the most important tools for fundraising and mobilization.” Researches indicate that digital spaces create new opportunities for the development of collective movement identity. The Black Lives Matter movement started as a hashtag in the digital space and became the banner under which dozens of disparate organizations, new and old, and millions of individuals, loosely and tightly related, press for change in the real world. „You can get 10,000 people together in hours“, a participant in the study said.

Especially the Black Lives Matter movement shows, how strong social networks can mobilize. In addition, as we can see from previous studies, social media can have a certain influence on mobilizing in politics. We saw that with the Arab Spring in the Middle East regions, the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States and with the Fridays for Future movement in Germany, which fights for better climate protection. One important reason so many people went on the streets was and are social networks. All three organizations use social media extensively to mobilize the people.




Social media will play an increasingly important role in politics in the future. Especially young people almost exclusively use social media to inform themselves. Especially politicians have to use it to reach these people. “There is no way around it”, one expert told me. However, is social media a tool to empower minorities in American politics? Are Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and all the other channels able to compensate for disadvantages that minorities have in American politics? One of the most important factors to answer that is authenticity. Candidates who do not feel comfortable with these channels of communication will presumably not be successful.

The rise of congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is one the most famous examples how it can work. In comparison to the Republican candidate, she did not have a lot of money for her campaign and she certainly did not have the prominence. Nevertheless, she won and she was a social media candidate. Social media can be “the voice of the voiceless”, if you have the right candidate.

But social media is not just a tool for minority candidates. Some experts are sure: “Donald Trump won because of social media, because he just fit.” Social media is therefore a tool for all political candidates, but it can certainly compensate many disadvantages with the right application. “If you have a social media candidate, you can win by using it”, a campaigner told me. However, there is a restriction. There are no valid studies and numbers yet, to prove that social media can make a difference in winning political campaigns. “Did social media help her win? Probably, but that is not certain”, an expert told me discussing the victory of Ocasio-Cortez. The circumstantial, however, suggest it.

Thanks of the Author: I would like to thank all those who supported me during the research work: First of all the whole Team of the American Council on Germany and of course also Denis McDonough, John Hlinko und Michael Turk, Jared Benoff, Ralf Bremer, Bastian Hermisson and Hannah Winnick of the Heinrich Böll Stiftung, Andrew Cohen, Patrick van Kessel and Adam Hughes of the PEW Research Center, Sofia Gross and Ed McFadden.

[1] “How social media helps young people”, Washington Post, 2016

[2] “Social Media Update 2014”, PEW Research Center, Duggan, Ellison, Lampe, Lenhart, Madden, 2015

[3] “Social Media Fact Sheet”, PEW Research Center, 2019

[4] “The Role of Social Media in Political Mobilisation: a Case Study of the January 2011 Egyptian Uprising”, Madeline Storck, 2011

[5]“Scaling Social Movements Through Social Media: The Case of Black Lives Matter”, Mundt, Ross, Burnett, 2018



Große Freiheit oder hohe Deiche
Mediendokumentation in der digitalen Welt

vfm- Frühjahrstagung

Große Freiheit oder hohe Deiche
Mediendokumentation in der digitalen Welt


Liebe Kolleg*innen,

die Frühjahrstagung des vfm – Verein für Medieninformation und Mediendokumentation e.V. steht vor der Tür. Wir freuen uns, nach 15 Jahren wieder in Hamburg im historisch bedeutsamen Rolf-Liebermann Studio des NDR Funkhauses zu tagen. Das Motto lautet:

Große Freiheit oder hohe Deiche
Mediendokumentation in der digitalen Welt.

Neugierige und Interessierte sind herzlich eingeladen, an unserer Tagung mit spannenden operativen und technischen Einblicken in die Welt rund um die Mediendokumentation teilzunehmen. Die Tagung eröffnet Prof. Karin Bjerregaard Schlüter (Universität der Künste Berlin) mit dem Eröffnungsvortrag: „Der digitale Wandel und sein Einfluss auf die Bedeutung, die Aufgaben und die Arbeit von Medienhäusern“. Direkt im Anschluss folgt die Session zu technischen Innovationen von Audio- und Videomining-Systemen und KI-generierten Metadaten. Am Dienstag geht es mit den Vorträgen unserer „Newcomer“ und der Verleihung des Marianne-Englert-Preises weiter.

Die „Verifikation“ von Informationen mit den Praxisberichten aus den Medienhäusern dpa, Spiegel und ZDF finden ihren Höhepunkt in der am Nachmittag folgenden Podiumsdiskussion zur Frage, ob und wie die „Dokumentar*innen als Wahrheitshüter“ eine tragende Rolle in unseren Häusern übernehmen können. Praxisberichte zu den spezifischen Themen „Musik und Dokumentation“, „Agile Organisation“ und „Pressedokumentation“ runden die Tagung am Mittwoch ab.

Wie immer erwartet Sie nicht nur ein abwechslungsreiches und anspruchsvolles Programm, es gibt auch genügend Gelegenheit, sich mit Kolleg*innen fachlich auszutauschen. Die Frühanreisenden am Sonntag können sich entweder mit einer Barkassenfahrt Hamburg aus einem anderen Blickwinkel nähern oder bei einer Führung die einzigartige Elbphilharmonie genießen. Am Montagabend besteht, je nach Ausgang der Bürgerschaftswahl im Februar, die Möglichkeit, die neue Präsidentin oder den neuen Präsidenten der Hamburger Bürgerschaft beim Empfang im Rathaus kennenzulernen.

Am Dienstagnachmittag sollten Sie sich für eine von acht interessanten Führungen in verschiedenen Medienhäusern und Archiven anmelden. Abends lädt Sie der vfm herzlich zum persönlichen Informationsaustausch bei einem Klönschnack ins Restaurant Okzident im Museum am Rothenbaum ein.

W i c h t i g: Die Tagungsanmeldung muss wie immer online erfolgen. Bei Fragen zur Anmeldung wenden Sie sich bitte an Hiltrud Lehmkühler ( Die Anmeldung inklusive Bestätigung zum Ausdrucken finden Sie ab sofort unter Weitere Informationen mit laufend aktualisiertem Programm und Referentenliste, Hinweisen rund um den Tagungsort, zur Anreise und zu unseren Hotelkontingenten enthält die Tagungsseite

Wichtiger Hinweis für alle Mitglieder des vfm: Am Montag, 20.April 2020, findet ab 16.30 Uhr die Mitgliederversammlung des vfm statt. Alle Teilnehmer*innen der Frühjahrstagung sind eingeladen, daran teilzunehmen.

Wir bedanken uns ganz herzlich beim Ortskomitee Hamburg für die Organisation der Tagung sowie beim Programmkomitee für die Themenfindung und Gewinnung der zahlreichen Referentinnen und Referenten. Der Vorstand des vfm und ich freuen sich darauf, Sie wiederzusehen und natürlich auch auf die Teilnehmer*innen, die zum ersten Mal dabei sein werden.

Herzliche Grüße Mario Müller, Vorsitzender des vfm,

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