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Gay marriage spawns big spike in online videos

BY BETH FOUHY, ASSOCIATED PRESS

NEW YORK -- President Barack Obama's May 9 announcement that he favors same sex marriage led to a huge spike on YouTube, according to data assembled by the popular video sharing site.

Obama's endorsement of same-sex nuptials resulted in a record number of searches and a rush of users uploading videos on the subject. Gay marriage was also the most popular topic on YouTube's news and politics category this week.

YouTube is owned by the online search giant Google, which saw a 458 percent increase in national searches for "Obama" and "gay marriage" between 10 am and 6pm the day Obama disclosed his views in an interview with ABC News.

Gay rights issues have a history of sparking online viral videos. University of Iowa student Zach Wahls' plea for Iowa lawmakers to allow marriage rights for his lesbian parents was YouTube's most-watched political video of 2011. It was followed closely by "Strong," an ad from Rick Perry's now abandoned campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, in which the Texas governor laments that "gays can serve openly in the military." The commercial sparked numerous parodies and drew more than 760,000 "dislikes" on YouTube.

Matthew Nisbit, a professor of communications at American University who studies the intersection of politics and social media, said online videos and an interest in gay rights were a natural pairing.

"The heaviest users of video are people under the age of 25, and gay rights is one of the few political issues young people feel passionate about," Nisbit said. "And the gay community was an early adopter of social networking - the technology was a good fit for people of minority status looking for like-minded others."

Following Obama's announcement, more videos with the key words "gay marriage" were uploaded on YouTube than ever before, drawing more than 3 million views and 100,000 comments.

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