Facebook Tries Peer Pressure to Shame Users Into Voting

Tuesday, May 20, 2014 - 11:51 AM

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Did you know there was an "I'm a voter" button on Facebook for the 2012 election? Neither did I. But apparently the button is meant as subtle social pressure on your facebook community to get out and vote. Today, Facebook announced that it will be expanding the "I'm a Voter" button to international elections.

It was already deployed for India's recent election, where it was clicked four million times, and there are plans to use it in upcoming elections in South Korea, Sweden, Colombia, Scotland, New Zealand, Brazil, and more. Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone says "there is a real social multiplier effect. When people see on Facebook that their friends have voted, they themselves are motivated to vote."

It's a nice idea, but it runs up against the same problems that hashtag activism always collides with - pressing the "I voted" button doesn't require users to actually have voted. It can create pressure to exhibit a behavior, but that behavior seems unlikely to be someone actually going to a polling station and voting. It's like a native version of changing your profile picture to a cartoon to protest child abuse. It creates a feeling of accomplishment without actually having to accomplish something.

Now, if every ballot had a receipt QR code you could scan with your phone to prove you voted and only then could you tick the box? That might pressure people to get out of their houses.

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Comments [2]

Chris from NYC

So not to endorse the "friendly hashtags save the world" message, but specifically what Facebook is doing isn't without science. The 2012 paper on the topic (http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v489/n7415/full/nature11421.html) is really pretty interesting as is some of the subsequent work. It's easy to be dismissive, but I'd say check your pessimism here. Social pressures aren't as clear as you might think.

Also, Alex, do they not give out voted stickers at your polling place? Check instagram's #ivoted for your more convincing version of social pressure.

May. 20 2014 03:04 PM
Beau Yarbrough from Southern California

Don't you remember how we all brought democracy and freedom of speech to Iran by turning our Twitter profile pics green a few years ago?

May. 20 2014 12:19 PM

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