On June 16, Facebook launched what they are calling “the largest voting information campaign in American history.” With the goal of registering more than four million voters, the voting information campaign includes the Voting Information Center, which offers a number of initiatives and information outlets for Americans interested in learning more about voting, the election and how much campaigns and advertisers are spending. The voting information campaign also offers Facebook users the choice to opt out of political ads altogether.
What Is Facebook’s Voting Information Center?
The Voting Information Center will offer up-to-date news about the election in conjunction with federal and local election officials. Facebook users will be able to find answers to questions about absentee ballots, election dates and ongoing changes in their voting districts. The Voting Information Center also offers resources for people to plan their voting process, including their polling place and what kind of ID they might need. A Facebook blog post about the launch explained, “Starting this summer, we will put the Voting Information Center at the top of people’s Facebook and Instagram feeds. We expect more than 160 million people in the U.S. will see this authoritative information about how to vote in the general election from July through November.”
Why Is Facebook Launching The Voting Information Campaign?
Aside from any altruistic intentions, the launch of this initiative is being seen as Facebook’s response to blowback from election interference and privacy issues on the social media platform during the 2016 election. Those discrepancies have plagued Facebook for years, created trust issues with users, and have recently been exacerbated by Facebook’s reluctance to police lies and fake posts from politicians and their proxies. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg addressed this policy in his recent USA Today op-ed about the new Facebook voting information campaign, sharing, “Ultimately, I believe the best way to hold politicians accountable is through voting, and I believe we should trust voters to make judgments for themselves. That's why I think we should maintain as open a platform as possible, accompanied by ambitious efforts to boost voter participation.”
How Can People Opt Out Of Political Ads?
Facebook revealed that some users have requested less political and social issue posts, so the social platform added an opt out option and created more transparency around shared political ads. According to Facebook’s announcement, “Starting [June 16] for some people and rolling out to everyone in the U.S. over the next few weeks, people will be able to turn off all social issue, electoral or political ads from candidates, Super PACs or other organizations that have the ‘Paid for by’ political disclaimer on them.” Additionally, to avoid confusion, Facebook has made it more obvious when political ads are shared by users by requiring that the “Paid for by” political disclaimer appears with all shared ads.
How Do These Options Impact Political Marketers?
If people are opting out of seeing political ads on social media, it will likely decrease the influence and reach of platforms like Facebook, making it increasingly important that campaigns have their own first-party lists of opted-in supporters. Even if the voting information campaign from Facebook presents opportunities for political marketers as users turn to Facebook for information, well-built donor lists are essential for fundraising strategies like email campaigns and targeted outreach. Prioritizing strategically built donor lists can create lasting engagement that helps campaigns with fundraising and getting out the vote.
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