Social networks have had a major effect in past elections, including Obama’s 2012 campaign. It is only fitting to discuss the future impact that social, specifically Facebook, will have on future elections. Facebook is the number one source where individuals get their information and news. Currently the news feed on Facebook displays these stories of interest to individuals through a series of algorithms. These algorithms therefore determine which stories individuals see, stories that can have a direct impact on people’s choices.
No matter how Facebook changes the algorithms, there are always successful and detrimental outcomes. Recently, Facebook has announced the shutting down of a feature which was utilized vastly in the 2012 Obama campaign to register over 1 million people. It has been studied that social network users are influenced by stories shared and viewed by their peers. Supporters of Obama shared access to their friends list to the campaign through an app. This feature enabled the Obama campaign to share multiple stories and push users to “get-out-the-vote” which was crucial to victory. Facebook has decided to shutdown this feature through an effort to protect users from third-party apps that gather individual’s information.
This Facebook feature gave a huge technological advantage to the Obama campaign. In addition to Facebook’s ability to influence individuals opinions, Facebook also impacts voter turnout.Voter turnout has been tested for years on Facebook. Starting in 2008, Facebook has displayed a “I voted” button which when clicked displayed to all of your friends and registered on the network. Studies have been done linking these individuals with their actual votes and to have turned out to be accurate reads.
Facebook has declared that its efforts are neutral, however ” company’s algorithms take into account a proprietary mix of our own biases, connections, and interests combined with Facebook’s business priorities; that is the farthest thing from neutral”.
My questions are: If Facebook bases all shared news off of algorithms how can equality be established for both candidates in a presidential race? Can campaigns take advantage of the algorithms to spread possible negative news to supporters of the opposition? Will another feature emerge such as the one Obama used in the 2012 election?