The presidential and congress elections in the United States are not only a major political event in that country, but also changes and new services introduced by the technological giants, who are already well aware of the role they can play in democratic processes. From time to time, we see attempts to regulate the possibility of publishing false information (Twitter has been strongly committed to marking this in recent months), deleting accounts and fake-news spreading groups or limiting the possibility of politicians to advertise. For many years, in addition to all kinds of controversy, there have been calls for technology companies to use their wise heads and the enormous opportunities they have to create solutions that make it easier for American society to vote in elections. We must remember that the electoral system in the United States is far more complex and complicated than we know from our country or other European countries. In mid-August Facebook announced the launch of an initiative that could make it much easier for everyone to vote in early November.
Thanks to the Voting Information Center operating on Facebook and Instagram, Americans will be able to check if they are already registered as eligible to vote, and if it turns out that they are not yet on the list, they will be able to easily go to the website of the appropriate administrative body in their state or another organization that deals with registration and fill in the appropriate forms there. Within the framework of this microplatform you will also be able to check the current situation with the possibility of postal voting in a given state – who is entitled to do so, what the deadlines are – and, if necessary, submit an application for sending an election package. Since elections are held (this will probably also apply to the voting itself) with a pandemic in the background and regulations can change quite dynamically, Facebook has also introduced Voting Alerts, through which state authorities and local election bodies will be able to send important updates on the current situation to their citizens. The company’s ambition is, thanks to these facilitations and making all the necessary formalities in the upcoming elections easier, to register an additional 4 million voters.
In addition to the issues related to participation in the vote itself, Facebook also focuses on helping to access reliable and verified information. The Facts About Voting section contains important articles on strictly electoral topics, is supposed to convey facts and prepare people for the more effective detection of disinformation – not only on Facebook or other social media, but in all content found on the Internet.
It is worth noting that in addition to preparing voters to register, keeping them up to date with what is going on about the elections in their condition, providing access to verified information, Facebook is trying to help local authorities conduct the elections in early November. The pandemic and the risks associated with it have resulted in a shortage of people willing to work at election commissions. The Voting Information Center therefore contains announcements encouraging people to volunteer to work on the organization and help carry out the voting process. Additionally, each of the states received free credits to conduct a campaign to recruit election workers on Facebook.
The set of tools created by Facebook seems to be one of the most advanced solutions supporting democratic processes and bringing them closer to citizens. We can see far-reaching cooperation with state and local authorities and (nonpartisan) electoral organizations. This is a good step towards being not only a place where we can talk to friends, comment on pictures of cats and children, discuss fierce political issues, but also be a responsible member of the community supporting it at an important moment.