Did Facebook Influence the Presidential Election?

Did Facebook Influence the Presidential Election?

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Did Facebook influence the presidential election? People often ask this question, due to all the promotions that were viewed on Facebook from multiple pages and the social media site itself.

Facebook now offers their users the option to use a widget called, “I Voted.” The results of an experiment during the 2012 U.S. election, confirmed that the widget was responsible for getting 340,000 people to the polls. The widget contains information about the polls and people’s voting options.

Some people could not see the widget in their Facebook Newsfeed. Others saw a message filled with general information, and there were still those who did not see anything. When users of the social media site applied the “I Voted” widget, their profile picture showed up next to the gizmo, on everyone’s page. This influenced others on the social media site, who saw the widget, to vote because they wanted to be seen next to the gizmo as well. The study proved that a small number of people, who were influenced by the “I Voted” addition, made a big difference.

During the 2016 election, the widget showed options, such as “See Election Results” and “Share You Voted.” Additionally, when a user clicked on “See Election Results,” they could see videos of the progress of the election and who was in the lead, at the time the video was posted.

Online messages and promotions were viewed by people all over the world. Someone in the U.S. may see the “I Voted” gizmo on Facebook and be encouraged to go to the polls. Not only because many other people had used it but they could have been influenced by the results they saw.

Some of the data scientists for the social media website discovered that positive social pressure caused more people to vote. The social media site has a page that explains the “I Voted” widget. One of the purposes was to help people determine where the polls were located in each area, so they would know where to vote.

Today is Election Day in the United States and Facebook is committed to encouraging people who use our service to participate in the democratic process.  – Posted by Facebook.

Some people feel the experiment that was done, in 2012 with this widget was manipulative. The voter button tests were mainly designed to see if different messages on the button affected the likelihood of users who interacted with the widget. There were some sayings, on the gizmo, that were likely to only result in clicks. However, there was not any difference in the potential for the widget to get citizens to the polls. Regardless, the site’s data scientists determined that the message did not make a positive or negative impact on the end game – encouraging people to vote.

Facebook often manipulates what people see on their feed. That being said, if someone used the widget, the social media site would, most likely, post it closer to the top of their friends’ Newsfeed.

The Facebook widget, “I voted,” obviously had a big role in how many people went to the polls both elections. The widget also affected the Newsfeed viewed by users. So, did Facebook influence the election?

By Marrissa K.
Edited by Jeanette Smith

Sources:

Mother Jones: Facebook Wants You to Vote on Tuesday. Here’s How It Messed With Your Feed In 2012
Facebook: Facebook Focused on Helping Voter Participation
Christian Science Monitor: Facebook ‘I Voted’ button experiment: praiseworthy or propaganda? (+video)
Atlantic: How Facebook Could Tilt the 2016 Election
BBC: US Election 2016: How Facebook is influencing the vote

Image Courtesy of mkhmarketing’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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