The Republican National Committee this week launched a parody of Facebook called BarackBook that attempts to discredit Obama by highlighting as his "friends" people who may reflect badly on his presidential bid.
The site, whose template is similar to that of popular social network Facebook, lists former Obama fund-raiser Antoin "Tony" Rezko as an Obama friend. Rezko was convicted last month of 16 felony corruption charges, which BarackBook chronicles through various news articles detailing his indictment and conviction. BarackBook also has similar profiles of other Obama "friends" including Nadhmi Auchi, an Iraqi billionaire with ties to Rezko.
The site also contains videos bashing Obama on a variety of issues.
The RNC did not respond to a request for comment on the site. However, the RNC noted in a press release that it was created to highlight some of Obama's "notable associations" throughout his career.
"Leveraging the popularity of social networking sites, BarackBook allows voters to explore Obama's connections with these individuals as well as their connections to one another using video and news articles," the RNC press release noted.
The RNC added that it plans to update the site routinely between now and Election Day. Users can receive automated updates when the site adds new information or invite others to view BarackBook by installing a BarackBook Facebook application distributed by the RNC. As of Tuesday, 18 Facebook users had signed on to use the BarackBook application on Facebook.
The Obama campaign did not respond to a request for comment on the RNC effort by press time.
Michael Turk, a blogger at TechPresident, which chronicles the intersection between Web 2.0 and politics, noted that while he has argued often that the RNC has not fostered a "sense of creativity or innovation" when it comes to their Web operations, he liked BarackBook.
"It's not quite an exact rip-off of Facebook's profile page, which would have been easy enough to do, but I suspect they were trying to make it different enough so that they wouldn't get sued," Turk noted. "Some might argue that mocking Facebook is a bad move given that Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes is running my.BarackObama.com. It may call attention to the fact that Obama has attracted some big tech names to his side. I disagree."
But, he noted that the site's popularity might be hampered by the inability to easily spread the content of the site to other users and sites.
"[The RNC should] add an option in the upper left to'Add Friends'and provide the opportunity for visitors to virally promote the site," Turk added. "Regular Facebook users would likely click on the link just to see what's behind it."