Another story about Facebook's increasing power to affect the vote. Two
years, Jonathan Zitrain showed how FB was able to increase voter turnout
by sending out reminders during the mid-term elections .
Now this one is about FB's ability to drive voter registration. If you
go to the article, you see can look at some of the graphs, the "Facebook
Bump" is quite impressive.
Now, let's assume that FB has not been targeting specific constituencies
-- which it could easily do, since targeted ads are their core business
-- but showed the reminder to a representative sample or to all users in
the US. Would that still give it an undue influence on the election? I
think so, but in subtle ways. One thing, as the article notes, is that
Facebook-users are not representative of the overall population. So FB
users, particularly active FB users, are a select demographic, rather
then the population. But it's more than that, FB first sallowed the
Internet, now it's remaking the world in its own image....
A 17-word Facebook reminder contributed to substantial increases in
online voter registration across the country, according to top election
At least nine secretaries of state have credited the social network’s
voter registration reminder, displayed for four days in September, with
boosting sign-ups, in some cases by considerable amounts. Data from nine
other states show that registrations rose drastically on the first day
of the campaign compared with the day before.
“Facebook clearly moved the needle in a significant way,” Alex Padilla,
California’s secretary of state, said in an interview on Tuesday.
Facebook’s effort is notable not just for boosting voter registration,
but also for the kinds of voters it may have helped to enlist. While
Facebook could not provide demographic breakdowns of the users who
registered, the social network is more popular among female internet
users than male users, and the same is true for young users compared
with older users, according to 2015 data from the Pew Research Center.
Both groups — women and younger adults — tend to lean Democratic.
In California, for example, nearly 24 percent of online voter
registrations during the Facebook campaign came from residents aged 17
to 25. Nearly 30 percent more came from Californians from 26 to 35 years
“It’s pretty clear that the Facebook reminder campaign
disproportionately motivated young people to register,” Mr. Padilla, the
secretary of state, said.
The reminder — “Are you registered to vote? Register now to make sure
you have a voice in the election.” — was presented alongside two links:
one leading to a federal directory of state voter registration websites;
and another allowing users to share that they had registered. Only users
who would be of voting age on Election Day saw the reminder, which
appeared for both desktop and mobile users.
Officials greeted the effort enthusiastically.
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