David Zax

A View from David Zax

Facebook, CNN, and the Rise of Social Voting

Can technology disrupt democracy?

  • July 12, 2012

Don’t you wish voting were “more fun and social,” in the parlance of social startups? Now, with a new collaboration between CNN and Facebook, it will be.

The two have joined forces to make the “I’m Voting” Facebook app, an app that enables Facebook users to endorse candidates and issues, and to commit to voting. If you use the app and commit to voting for someone, that information appears in your timeline, news feed, and real-time ticker. During CNN’s political coverage this fall, CNN personalities will use the app to poll users on issues.

This isn’t the first time CNN and Facebook have teamed up, pointed out CNN’s KC Estenson. “We fundamentally changed the way people consume live event coverage, setting a record for the most-watched live video event in Internet history, when we teamed up with Facebook for the 2009 Inauguration of President Obama,” he said. “By again harnessing the power of the Facebook platform and coupling it with the best of our journalism, we will redefine how people engage in the democratic process and advance the way a news organization covers a national election.”

Is this the rise of social voting? During the midterm elections, Foursquare dipped a toe into the idea that voting could be made “more fun and social.” Foursquare launched a special elections page, reported ReadWriteWeb, awarded badges to those who checked in at polling places, and promoted an #IVoted hashtag. And Facebook is no stranger to promoting democracy on its site; it had a Facebook Polling Place Locator live during the 2010 midterms.

While it’s fun to see these two giants–CNN and Facebook–team up to give a boost to our democratic process, I’m just as interested about the efforts of a few under-the-radar startups that are using technology to redefine the way we vote and hold our leaders accountable. ElectNext, for instance, takes the principle of a dating website and applies it to politics. Tell ElectNext how you feel about certain issues, and it will “match” you with candidates that fit your political beliefs. The Sean Parker-funded Votizen lets you publicly endorse certain candidates to your friends, turning your social networks into a digital soapbox of sorts. And once you’ve put your candidates in office, PopVox helps you keep them accountable, by giving you tools to track legislation and tell your representative just how you feel about it.

Here’s a video pitch on ElectNext.

The interaction of technology and politics is a hot topic–take a look at TR’s excellent coverage of the Arab Spring, for instance. But in many respects, despite the teaming up of CNN and Facebook and the efforts of a number of entrepreneurs, politics is a realm of modern life in which the promise of technology has barely begun to be realized.

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