As the U.S. presidential campaign heats up, Facebook is going out of its way to show its neutrality – an increasingly urgent matter for the social network as evidence of its power continues to emerge. Recent studies have shown the site has extraordinary influence. According to research scheduled to be published in August in the Journal of Communication, when people tagged their friends on Facebook in voting reminders, turnout increased by 15 to 24%. During U.S. presidential primary elections this year, a Facebook reminder that informed people when their state’s voter registration deadline was approaching and provided a link helped produce a surge of nearly 650,000 new voter registrations in California alone, according to Secretary of State Alex Padilla.
In the United Kingdom, a Facebook reminder days before the deadline to register to vote on whether the country should exit the European Union led to 186,000 people registering online to vote, according to the government. “Generally, getting people out to vote could swing a national election,” said Katherine Haenschen, a PhD student at the University of Texas, Austin and author of the upcoming Journal of Communications study.
Facebook is eager to show that its political involvement is limited to seemingly neutral activities such as encouraging voting. The company this week released some of the guidelines that govern its all-important News Feed – the place most people see postings on Facebook – and has pushed back hard against recent allegations of political bias in its “Trending Topics” module.
Full Article: US elections: Facebook clout under lens | ETtech.