The Internet battle over the presidential campaign is ratcheting up following announcements by social-networking site MySpace and video-sharing hub YouTube that they plan live webcasts of town hall meetings and candidate debates leading up to the primaries.
In a measure of the growing significance of online politics, key executives from major Web companies — including Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt — took part Friday in the fourth annual Personal Democracy Forum in New York, a gathering of people trying to find new ways of inspiring political action via the Internet.
The potential pool is huge. More than 21 million people had viewed online political videos as of February, Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project, told the conference. And, he said, more than 24 million have participated in organized online lobbying campaigns.
Still, those numbers represent a relatively narrow slice of the electorate. In the last presidential election, about 122 million votes were cast.
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