Politics Magazine

Facebook and Politics

Posted on the 28 August 2012 by Yogeshvashist98 @YogeshVashist98

It’s an election year, which means that many candidates are turning to social media in order to boost their presence, gain more supporters and churn out their message.


Though most presidential candidates, including Barak Obama and Mitt Romney, have already created Facebook pages and earned themselves a hefty following, Facebook is offering another political perk.

Right now, both progressive and democratic campaigns can organize their supporters through the social network. For years, democratic campaigns were able to access the Voter Activation Network (VAN), which is a database that includes information about individuals in specific areas. This information can include voting history, contact information and even their interactions with political campaigns.

Now, in an effort dubbed as Social Organizing, campaign staff can match Facebook users to people whose information is already kept in the VAN. This allows political campaigns to target certain areas in order to enlist support. For example, if a staff member sees that they’re currently Facebook friends with people in the VAN, they can reach out to them directly and ask them to serve as volunteers. This allows campaigns to seek help from people who are more willing to take part, and it also ensures that their candidate receives the vote from that individual.

For years, people have been using Facebook to share their political beliefs and to try and enlist support for their candidates, but most have been unsuccessful because they were reaching out to a large audience instead of targeting certain individuals. But if a staff member comes across a few of their friends whose information was in the VAN, they’ll know that these people share the same political beliefs and will help support the cause.

Isn’t this an invasion of privacy?

Social organizing doesn’t share a Facebook user’s information. Instead, it simply recognizes certain individuals in certain areas that are already listed in the VAN, and allows staff and volunteers to see if they’re currently friends with anyone in the database. The Facebook/VAN combination now allows people to reach out to those who will be more likely to help them instead of blasting their Facebook feed with political rants or asking everyone to volunteer.

What about the Republican party?

The republican party does not currently have access to VAN, but they do have similar software. Unfortunately, the software that the republican campaigns have does not provide information on people who are willing to help; it only matches a volunteer’s Facebook friends with people who are already supporting the campaign.

With the presidential election around the corner, everyone can expect their news feeds to start being bombarded with everyone sharing their opinion as to why their party should win or blasting the other parties’ decisions and actions. Instead of getting involved in the debates or swearing off Facebook until the election is over, hopefully the use of Social Organizing will minimize the campaign conversations held on the site and allow people to reach out to those who share their beliefs and get them actively involved.

Author: Sarah Dunbar works for the online marketing team at SEOMap.  To learn more about their work click here

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