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How Facebook Could Be Influencing Election Day

Political Apptivism 

It was the mid-term elections in the United States this week, and America's many Facebook users logged in to discover the 'Megaphone' voting announcement. Appearing on top of user's news feeds, it pushed them to go and vote. This is not the first time that Facebook has used its influence to tempt its users into voting. Another version of the Megaphone appeared in 2008, but this year they have tweaked the algorithm so that the feature reaches out to all users old enough to vote.

The exciting feature lets you see which of your friends have voted or are planning to vote. For those unsure about where to go, especially first time voters, Facebook will point you in the direction of your nearest polling station. Once you have voted, you can post on Facebook: "I'm A Voter" or "I'm Voting."

Facebook is working under the assumption that if you see that your friends have been voting then you are more likely to vote. But what are Facebook's real intentions? Could they be influencing the end result? A Facebook spokesperson has stated that: "Our effort is neutral, while we encourage any and all candidates, groups and voters to use our platform to engage on the elections, we as a company have not used our products in a way that attempts to influence how people vote." 

In this case, it seems that Facebook's intentions are pretty clear: to ensure that people do their civic duty and go vote. However, in the future, Facebook could become an important political tool. Over the summer, Facebook had, controversially, influenced what users saw on their news feed to see if a load of negative posts would make people feel sad and vice versa. Facebook could potentially influence who people want to vote for by making one political party more visible on News Feeds than others.

However, Facebook is promoting social engagement and should be applauded for their efforts. More often that not, young people won't cast their vote, meaning a large chunk of the population remains unrepresented. Facebook is a large part of young people's lives and so it makes sense that it should be used to push people into casting their vote. Social media should play a large part in promoting social engagement and political activism because it is the space where most people spend a large amount of time. 

How to get  young people to go vote? Maybe social media is the answer.


Laura is a recent graduate from University of East Anglia in Film and Television Studies, currently interning as a content writer but hoping to one day live off her writing. Follow her @LauraAtSMF.

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How Facebook Could Be Influencing Election Day Reviewed by Laura Veit on Thursday, November 06, 2014 Rating: 5
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