Twitter to get its own (unofficial) 2012 GOP debate

Dylan Stableford
The Cutline

The lead-up to the 2008 presidential election included debates sponsored by YouTube and Facebook--and now it appears 2012 will have at least one debate conducted via Twitter.

A GOP debate that organizers are calling the "First Presidential Townhall on Twitter" has been slated for July 20.

The virtual event—organized by the Republican Liberty Caucus and sponsored by TheTeaParty.net—is scheduled to take place between 3:00 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. ET.

So far, only Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and Georgia businessman Herman Cain have been announced as participants. But organizers say others are slated to announce their involvement later.

"We will be releasing the names of the confirmed candidates after the 4th of July holiday to give the few remaining candidates who haven't confirmed time to get acquainted with the platform," TeaParty.net media director Dustin Stockton said in a statement.

The platform will isolate and organize tweets from the candidates and moderator (radio host Rusty Humphries), as well as those from the Twitterverse, on the 140TownHall.com website.

"We basically have an online tool that tracks all tweets for a specific account name and hashtag," Adam Green, founder of 140 Dev, the company that developed the platform, told Mashable.com. "It takes all those tweets, aggregates them into a database, separates the ones who are the lead speakers and puts them in one stream, and then puts the others in a separate stream."

More from Mashable's explanation of debate protocols:

A lefthand column will display real-time stats, such as how many followers, mentions and retweets each candidate is receiving. A center column will show the debate as it happens, with the moderator in blue and candidate in white. A righthand column will feature a tweet box, so the public can comment as the debate is going on.

Tweets from the event will be aggregated on the @140TownHall Twitter feed, too.

Green claims that the candidates themselves will be participating in the debate, not representatives or campaign aides.

While the platform will be utilizing Twitter's API, Twitter itself is not an official sponsor for the debate.

In the 2008 campaign cycle, CNN and YouTube partnered for a debate series in which candidates replied to questions submitted through YouTube. And ABC News and Facebook co-sponsored the 2008 New Hampshire Debates (with both parties debating on the same night, back-to-back), during which viewers were encouraged to interact on Facebook pages dedicated to the event.

Earlier this month, CNN hosted a GOP debate in New Hampshire, displaying live tweets and Facebook status updates on a large screen inside the hall.

(Photo illustration: The Cutline)