Facebook could decide an election without anyone ever finding out

by - June 03, 2014

On 2 November, 2010, Facebook’s American users were subject to an ambitious experiment in civic-engineering: could a social network get otherwise-indolent people to cast a ballot in that day’s congressional midterm elections? The answer was yes. The prod to nudge bystanders to the voting booths was simple. It consisted of a graphic containing a link for looking up polling places, a button to click to announce that you had voted, and the profile photos of up to six Facebook friends who had indicated they’d already done the same. With Facebook’s cooperation, the political scientists who dreamed up the study planted that graphic in the newsfeeds of tens of millions of users. (Other groups of Facebook users were shown a generic get-out-the-vote message or received no voting reminder at all.) Then, in an awesome feat of data-crunching, the researchers cross-referenced their subjects’ names with the day’s actual voting records from precincts across the country to measure how much their voting prompt increased turnout.

Source: New Statesman | Facebook could decide an election without anyone ever finding out

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