Business Insider

How Facebook is pushing Americans to be more political

Facebook says plans to eventually use the approach its taken with its voting planner app in the US in other countries

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 November, 2016, 4:03pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 November, 2016, 4:09pm

Facebook wants its users in the US be ready for election day.

Starting this week, the social network will show a voting planner in the News Feed for its millions of American users who are old enough to vote. The new tool will include what’s on the ballot in both the upcoming presidential and local district elections.

Facebook product manager Jeremy Galen told Business Insider that the voting planner is designed to help people see where candidates stand on certain issues, especially at the local level.

“We’re saturated with media about the top of the ticket,” he said. “The rest of the ballot is often the surprising part of the ballot and where they’re the least prepared.”

Helping voters be prepared is just one example of how Facebook has deepened its involvement in the US political process this year.

From Menlo Park to Washington DC 

Facebook’s political efforts are the result of a two-pronged effort on each side of the country.

The company’s civic engagement team works out of its Menlo Park, California headquarters and comes up with ideas like the voting planner that will be shown in the News Feed this week. Once a feature like it is made available on Facebook, the politics and governments team in Washington DC works with public officials and campaign staffers to make sure they’re all informed and participating.

For example, when Facebook’s civic engagement team introduced policy issue explainer cards for candidates’ official pages, the D.C. team worked to make sure it was as easy to fact check Jill Stein’s stance on legalising marijuana as it was Donald Trump’s stance on immigration.

When the civic engagement team made it possible to “endorse” a candidate’s Facebook page, the DC team made sure campaign staffers were aware of the tool and that they could choose to feature prominent endorsements on their pages.

Facebook began its civic engagement efforts when it prompted users to share a message saying that they had voted for the 2008 US presidential election.

For this 2016 election, the company decided to get involved earlier in the process and remind people to register to vote for both the primary and general elections. A prompt with information about how to register in each state at the end of September led to more than 2 million new voter sign-ups across the country.

Facebook’s DC team also organises the social network’s presence at events like the presidential debates — where it was a live stream partner this year. It’s one of the main reasons that every member of the US congress and senate has a Facebook page.

Facebook plans to eventually use the approach its taken in the US to build tools for elections in other countries around the world, according to director of policy communications Jodi Seth.

“We want to make it easier for people to participate and have a voice in the process,” she said.

See Also:
This is Facebook's most aggressive attack on Snapchat yet
A former FBI profiler's theory on why politicians use the same weird hand gesture
Facebook is copying Snapchat again