Facebook stared down heavy criticism for its perceived role in helping to elect Donald Trump. As Techcrunch writes, Facebook was accused of being a major source of fake and heavily biased news. As far as critics were concerned, the site did nothing to check these false rumors, leading to uninformed voters and a controversial Trump victory.
The social media platform is now hoping to appease critics by rolling out “civic-minded features” like Town Hall. As Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg explained, “The more you engage with the political process, the more you can ensure it reflects your values.” Facebook Town Hall is meant to encourage users to approach their representatives directly — and keep real-time tabs on on their policy-making behaviors.
As CNET reports, Facebook Town Hall launched in March 2017. The tool is meant to allow site members to locate their federal and state representatives. In addition to letting Facebook users know exactly who their representatives are, the tool also provides all relevant contact information.
How Town Hall Changes The Game
According to CNN, Congress members are receiving millions of phone calls per week. Were Town Hall’s popularity to grow, that number could skyrocket. Or it’s entirely possible the number could drop.
Town Hall puts constituents directly in touch with representatives already on Facebook. They can send messages and email or interact in real time conversations with government officials. The prevalence of digital contact methods could mean that voters are less inclined reach for their phones. At the same time, the feature could encourage Americans to take a greater interest in holding Congress accountable for legislation. That means not stopping at a simple Facebook post.
Town Hall suggests that Facebook will take a more hands on approach to the political conversation on its platform, putting users directly in contact with the men and women whose policy making most directly impacts their lives.
A Very Important Caveat
Although Facebook Town Hall is a promising tool, there is one major drawback: Its effectiveness is heavily reliant on a representative’s actual Facebook presence. There’s nothing to indicate the tool will be useful in tracking down representatives that use Twitter but not Facebook. As Techcrunch notes, not all representatives share contact information via Facebook. Unfortunately, it appears Town Hall has yet to fill in missing contact information through other sources.
While Town Hall can be a very useful tool for politically-minded Facebook users, it appears the feature needs just a bit more tweaking before it can reach its full potential.