Many states are planning on drastically different elections this year and mail-in ballots could be a big game changer.
Facebook, which pledged to register 4 million voters ahead of the November election, says it’s more than halfway to its goal, logging 2.5 million registrations from Facebook, Instagram and Messenger users.
The ballot-box push has already surpassed the 2 million new registrations Facebook estimates it racked up in the 2016 and 2018 elections, the company said. The figure is derived from conversion rates Facebook calculated from a few states it partnered with.
Facebook made the announcement as it prepared to unfurl new efforts to register voters around National Voter Registration Day on Tuesday.
The social media giant is pulling out all the stops to encourage more Americans to cast their ballots, part of an unprecedented effort by social media companies to increase turnout during a highly contentious election cycle in which a record number of Americans are expected to vote by mail due to the coronavirus pandemic.
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This latest get-out-the-vote drive from a major social media company is a nod to the vast influence these platforms have on American political life and an acknowledgment of the harm from foreign interference and rampant misinformation in previous election cycles.
Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are making sweeping changes to their platforms in the lead-up to the election to limit falsehoods about voting and interference from President Trump and other politicians.
Over the years, Facebook has shown it can turn out the vote, nudging users with notifications or getting them to post “I voted” buttons on their timelines.
Jennifer Grygiel, a communications professor at Syracuse University who studies social media, warns these voter drives may come with hidden agendas and problems.
A campaign on Instagram could skew turnout younger or more liberal while a campaign on Facebook could skew turnout older and more conservative, she said.
“Corporations are political entities, and we should not assume that platform voter registration campaigns are being done with only public good in mind and aren’t also strategic,” Grygiel said. “Social media companies have a lot at stake right now as they face increasing regulation. Their efforts to register voters could be serving corporate goals, and we need to make sure they are not strategically registering voters in a way that could skew the election.”
Some of what Facebook has planned this week:
- On Saturday, Facebook began showing American users information about how to register at the top of the Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger apps. The notifications take users to the relevant page of their state’s official website or, if online voter registration isn’t available, to the website of nonpartisan organizations.
- On Monday, Facebook launched a campaign to encourage Americans to visit its Voting Information Centers. Facebook said it was the first time it has run a consumer marketing campaign across all of its apps.
- On Tuesday, Facebook Watch will stream a one-hour special Vote-A-Thon 2020 hosted by YouTuber Liza Koshy on the Facebook app.
- On Tuesday, Facebook is launching a #PledgeToVoteChallenge. To join, type #PledgeToVoteChallenge when creating a new Facebook post.
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