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Get ready for more vitriolic political messages on Facebook

The company is allowing its users to contact their government representatives directly from a post

Technology trends and news by Steven Loeb
June 5, 2017
Short URL: http://vator.tv/n/49a9

(Updated with comment from Facebook)

The 2016 election has made Facebook's newsfeed one in which people shared happy family photos to an online version of Crossfire, CNN's debate program that aired until 2005. It's become informative at best, vitriolic at worst.

With Facebook's latest feature rollout, the company may start losing its users who prefer less controversy.

Facebook on Monday just updated its platform so that users can now contact their congressional members directly from a post. You know what that means: the post has to be political!  This new feature adds to Facebook's Town Hall, launched in March, which gave users an easier way to get in touch with government officials, and now the company has streamlined that process even more.

There's no doubt that social media has changed the way people engage politically. The only question is whether that's a good or bad thing. 

On one hand, people now have a platform to discuss the issues and to express their views like never before. On the other hand, nobody is actually listening to each other and it very likely just makes people find people who already agree with them. In the case of our President Donald Trump, who uses Twitter as his public megaphone, on one hand, it means our government is more transparent. On the other, this personalized and informal way of communicating has drawn criticism.  

He's not the only one being criticized. So are people voicing any of their political views.

Now, Facebook is encouraging even more of those views to come out! 

All the user has to do is click on the "Add what you're doing or how you're feeling button underneath," and scroll down to where is says, "Contacting.”

After that, they will be given a list of members of Congress to contact, including their own Senators and Representative, as well as pages for the United States House of Representatives or the United States Senate.

And, just like that, they can make their voice heard as a citizen of the United States!

This is a welcome change, as Town Hall previously only allowed users to contact their representatives if they engaged with one of their posts, including liking or commenting. Now more people will be able to engage, though it doesn’t necessarily mean anything. There's no guarantee that anyone going to actually see these posts that go up. Also, the United States House of Representatives or the United States Senate pages are unofficial (it's pretty amazing that there aren't official pages for either body!) so those would probably not be a good bet for actually reaching anyone.

Still, it gives users a louder voice than they had before, and that’s almost always a good thing.

“Our goal is to help people build the communities they want by making it easier for them to engage and have a voice in government – on a daily basis, not just Election Day,"  a Facebook spokesperson told VatorNews. 

A changing political landscape

One of the more unexpected results of the 2016 was how engaged and activated many people have become as a result. This was demonstrated by the large number of protests that sprung up literally overnight, and which have continued since. 

What this all means is that people are now paying attention to what their government is doing and they want a way to more actively engage with their political leaders. Facebook and Twitter now have an opening to give the people exactly that.

Creating a more active citizenry is important to Facebook. In a post put up in February, Mark Zuckerberg, who isn't running for President, outlines some of the company’s major goals. Among them, encouraging more civic engagement.

"Local civic engagement is a big opportunity as well as national. Today, most of us do not even know who our local representatives are, but many policies impacting our lives are local, and this is where our participation has the greatest influence. Research suggests reading local news is directly correlated with local civic engagement. This shows how building an informed community, supportive local communities, and a civically-engaged community are all related," he wrote.

The company plans to do that around the world, with Zuckerberg giving examples of getting people on board in India and Kenya.

Ultimately, not only will this kind of feature benefit the citizens, but the politicians as well, as they can use social media, much like Trump did last year, to create an active following.

"In recent campaigns around the world -- from India and Indonesia across Europe to the United States -- we've seen the candidate with the largest and most engaged following on Facebook usually wins. Just as TV became the primary medium for civic communication in the 1960s, social media is becoming this in the 21st century."

This feature was first noticed by TechCrunch.


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