WiFi networks are the new political soapbox. Thanks, ILoVeObAma!!

By Nathaniel Mott , written on October 9, 2012

From The News Desk

Yesterday, in a story about how Microsoft and Google are driving increased WiFi coverage in New York and San Francisco, I threw out a half-joke about political parties doing the same thing. To quote myself:

"It will be interesting to see non-tech companies sponsor a connection. Politics in particular could be great, with slogans like 'A Hotspot for Romney' or 'ObamaFi New York.'"
As it turns out, political parties may not need to make this push themselves. People across the world have already turned their WiFi networks into political advertisements, the modern equivalent to raising an "Obama [or Romney] 2012" sign in the front lawn. OpenSignal, an initiative to map cellular and WiFi signal strength around the world, has gathered this information from its database of 75 million geo-located routers and collected it in the map below.

View a fully-interactive version here. OpenSignal made the location of each network a little "fuzzy," saying: "pitchfork-yielding mobs should not hunt down political opponents based on this map. Or any other for that matter," the company wrote. Not that our readers are the pitchfork-yielding type. (I hope.)

Based on the 1140 political WiFi advertisements it found, OpenSignal tried to suss out some sort of "approval rate" for Obama across the globe. It's not the most sophisticated method replete with datapoints, but it's still a fun experiment.

The map is below. Dark blue represents a positive WiFi sentiment, while a country without any color is considered neutral under OpenSignal's criteria.

OpenSignal on why Obama is much more on popular Wifi networks outside the US than he is within:

It may be that Obama is genuinely more popular in the rest of the world but maybe it is because outside of the US people are less likely to express negative sentiments towards politicians in this manner.
The company compared the rate of positive versus negative comments regarding Argentina's Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and found that their hypothesis was correct – Argentinians were less likely than US citizens to criticize their political leader with their WiFi network.

It's one little study conducted by a company that doesn't typically involve itself in politics. Still, the number of people that use their WiFi networks to espouse their political beliefs surprised me. The Obama and Romney campaigns don't need to sponsor with WiFi – their supporters are already more than happy to advertise their political views with their personal networks.