The 2016 US presidential election was the most "electric event" in electoral history—in the fullest sense of the term. Social media played an unprecedented role in the campaigns, allowing the candidates to interact with and influence voters to a greater extent than ever before (via memes, targeted advertisements, hashtags, bots, and other mechanisms). According to Frank Speiser of SocialFlow, "This is the first true social media election."
On 1 November 2016, exactly one week before the election, the #SocialHumanities network launched with an interdisciplinary panel discussion on the US election on social media. Gemma Joyce, a social data journalist at Brandwatch, presented how the candidates spoke about each other on Twitter. Matthew Anderson, the founder of Mere Orthodoxy, explored Trump's temperament and the implications of this election for political leadership. Phil Howard, the Professor of Internet Studies at the Oxford Internet Institute, explained the role of bots and automation during the presidential debates.
These presentations were followed by an interactive discussion that dove into the role of journalists, memes vs. political cartoons, Trump's insults, the resonance of falsehoods, the 'neutrality' of Facebook and Twitter, and other aspects of how the battle for the US presidency unfolded on social media.