RALEIGH — When it comes to elections, voters have started to accept that outside groups are spending just as much money as campaigns to get their candidates elected. Under law, though, there can be no coordination between the candidates and the super PACs or non-profits. But in the age of social media, that doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t know what the other is doing.

“Here are our concerns. Here’s what the poll numbers look like,” said Robert Orr, a former NC Supreme Court Justice. “Here’s what we need. You don’t overtly contact them and coordinate it, but there are a lot of really smart people. They are figuring it out to get an edge in the campaign.”

From Twitter to YouTube, to other social media sites, campaigns can reach out to supporters with the assumption the independent spenders are listening.

But according to a report by CNN, social media may have played a bigger role in the last election cycle, with dummy Twitter accounts being set up to share expensive poll results between super PACs and campaigns.

“The ability to communicate in a way that sends the message but doesn’t violate the law about the separateness between the campaign and the independent expenditure is ruling pushing the envelope,” said Orr. “But it just goes to the real problem created by the independent expenditure concept.”

At UNC Chapel Hill’s School of Journalism and Mass Communications, assistant professor Daniel Kreiss says he is studying the constantly growing and changing force of social media, especially in the political arena.

“Social media has really become the way in which people consume political content,” said Kreiss. “Talk about political affairs, debate and discuss political issues.”

While legal experts may wrangle with whether or not it is fair to use social media to share campaign information, media people say there is also a gray area as to whether or not information shared there is public or private.

“So it’s not public in the sense in being in the town square, right,” said Kreiss. “But it is public in the sense of being something that has many layers of users shaping what they are going to make public and private to whom as much as they can.”

– Loretta Boniti