This year, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg vowed to use Facebook as a tool to increase civic engagement among users. According to Tech Crunch, in part, this decision is a reaction to the role that Facebook played in U.S. elections, especially the 2016 Presidential election. In March, Facebook released a new feature called “Town Hall,” which allows users to easily locate, follow, and contact their representatives at the local, state, and federal levels.
Because Facebook was accused of helping Donald Trump win by “doing nothing to prevent the spread of fake news and disinformation across its network,” Zuckerberg and his team have released new controls. These include PSAs on how to identify inaccurate reporting and downranking unreliable news stories from its Trending section.
In addition to the new censoring system, Facebook is making it easier for constituents to contact their representatives. Now, you can share your rep’s contact information on your posts. Elected officials can also communicate directly with constituents, and better understand them based on their digital footprint. Facebook has done this through the addition of three new features: constituent badges which allow elected officials to track constituent activity, constituent insights which allows elected officials to stay current with local news stories in their district, and district targeting which allows elected officials to receive feedback from constituents through Facebook directly.
Many in Washington now claim that “social media and digital advocacy, not traditional lobbying, as the fastest-growing segments of the influence industry according to a recent survey of Washington lobbyists, lawyers, association executives, and think tank leaders.” The greatest percentage of respondents- 38%- said they expect organizations to increase their social media presence to influence policymakers. The next largest percentage- 21%- believe organizations will increase their digital capabilities over the next five years.