Facebook wants to make civic engagement easier with Town Hall

facebook journalism grants login smartphone
Civic engagement is hard. Really hard. A recent study found that millennials in 2016 were significantly less politically engaged than previous generations. While the cause is subject to debate, the effect is clear: Declining voter turnout. Facebook is trying to turn things around with Town Hall, a new feature that lets users locate, follow, and contact local state and federal government representatives.

Town Hall, which can be accessed via Facebook’s slide-out menu on mobile and the web, provides a list of politicians at the local, state, and federal level, and buttons to follow their respective Facebook pages or contact them via text message, phone call, or email. Facebook said it is working to address gaps in information, such as missing phone numbers from reps without Facebook pages.

facebook town hall contactrepspress1a1

Some of Town Hall’s features have made their way into Facebook’s News Feed. If you like or comment on a post made by an elected official, for example, a new feature in the comments section will provide a quick way to call, message, or email the rep. If you choose to do so, you’ll be prompted to share a post indicating that you’ve contacted the representative.

Those posts won’t be shared publicly — Facebook’s limiting visibility to those who already liked or commented an elected official’s post. The social network said that is to prevent the News Feed from becoming too politicized.

Facebook’s also offering Election Reminders. Thanks to upgraded civic data infrastructure, the company now automates reminders for thousands of elections across the U.S. They will appear for all state, county, and municipal elections in the U.S. for areas with a population of more than 10,000 people.

facebook town hall election reminder15

Facebook, which has been running national election reminders at the top of News Feed since 2008, claims it has made an impact on voter turnout. According to the journal Nature and the the social network’s research, its 2010 message impacted real-world turnout by 340,000 votes.

The new features are a part of Facebook’s wide-ranging effort to increase civic engagement.

“Giving people a voice is a principle our community has been committed to since we began,” Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a 6,000-word outline of the social network’s mission. “As we look ahead to building the social infrastructure for a global community, we will work on building new tools that encourage thoughtful civic engagement. Empowering us to use our voices will only become more important.”

Computing

Was your Facebook account hacked in the latest breach? Here’s how to find out

Facebook now reports that its latest data breach affected only 30 million users, down from an initial estimate of 50 million accounts. You can also find out if hackers had accessed your account by visiting a dedicated portal.
Movies & TV

'Prime'-time TV: Here are the best shows on Amazon Prime right now

There's more to Amazon Prime than free two-day shipping, including access to a number of phenomenal shows at no extra cost. To make the sifting easier, here are our favorite shows currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix in October, from 'Mindhunter’ to ‘The Good Place’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Computing

How to recover Google contacts

If you accidentally deleted an important person from your Google Contacts, they might not be lost forever. Recovering them is a fairly easy process -- as long as you do it quickly. Here's how.
Social Media

These are the best ways to make an animated GIF

Love sharing GIFs with your friends and peers, but wish you could make your own? Here's how to do so in Photoshop, or using a few other methods that don't require you to shell out a premium fee with each calendar year.
Social Media

Instagram says its A.I. can track down bullying in photos

Instagram is turning to artificial intelligence to help it root out bullying on its platform. Following similar efforts to target bullying in comments, the company now has systems capable of detecting bullying in photos, too.
Social Media

Snapchat is using VR to let you step inside its new original shows

Tuning in to your favorite shows not enough? Snap Originals will allow viewers to set into a virtual set. The new exclusive shows debut today with three different shows. Snap Originals are vertical, short, and exclusive to the platform.
Social Media

3D Facebook photos jump out of the newsfeed, no glasses needed

You're not seeing things -- that photo in your Facebook newsfeed is 3D. Launching today, 3D Facebook Photos use the depth maps from dual-lens smartphones to add dimension to an image as you move your phone.
Social Media

Instagram is testing a new way for you to look through your feed

Instagram is constantly tweaking its app to help give its users the best experience possible, so how do you like the sound of tapping — instead of swiping — to look through your feed?
Mobile

Hinge's new feature wants to know who you've gone out on dates with

With its new "We Met" feature, Hinge wants to learn how your dates are going with matches in its app. That way, it can inject the information into its algorithm to provide future recommendations that better suit its users' preferences.
Social Media

Like a pocketable personal stylist, Pinterest overhauls shopping tools

Pinterest shopping just got a bit better with a trio of updates now rolling out to Pinterest. The first replaces Buyable Pins with Product Pins for more features, including knowing whether or not a product is in stock.
Smart Home

Facebook’s new Portal device can collect your data to target your ads

Facebook confirmed that its new Portal smart displays, designed to enable Messenger-enabled video calls, technically have the capability to gather data on users via the camera and mic onboard.
Social Media

YouTube is back after crashing for users around the world

It's rare to see YouTube suffer serious issues, but the site went down around the world for a period of time on October 16. It's back now, and we can confirm it's loading normally on desktop and mobile.
Social Media

Twitter has sorted out those weird notifications it was sending

Twitter started churning out weird notifications of seemingly nonsensical letters and numbers to many of its users on Tuesday morning. The bizarre incident even prompted Twitter boss Jack Dorsey to get involved.