Technology

Facebook launches new tools to boost civic engagement

Facebook is launching new tools to spur civic and political engagement.

The social media company on Monday announced that it is rolling out three new products to help users more easily find information about their representatives, connect them with those lawmakers and remind the public about local elections.

"Building a civically-engaged community means building new tools to help people engage in a thoughtful and informed way," Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said of the new tools in a post. "The starting point is knowing who represents you and how you can make your voice heard on the decisions that affect your life."

One of the tools, called "Town Hall," will direct users to their representative's Facebook profiles and allow constituents to call, message or email them directly from the app.

Facebook will also make the option to directly contact politicians available in Facebook's homepage Newsfeed when users like or comment on a post from one of their elected officials.

The new feature comes amid a significant uptick in constituents calling their representatives' offices, often to complain about White House policies and nominations.

Facebook users will also get reminders for city council, mayoral and other elections. The new reminders will appear for eligible voters during all state, county and municipal elections in the U.S. in counties with over 10,000 voters.

The company has provided national Election Day reminders since 2008.

"Civic engagement on Facebook is about more than voting, it's about giving people a voice in government so they can effect change and build the communities they want," said Katie Harbath, director of Facebook's politics and government outreach team. "These new features are part of Facebook's ongoing efforts to support civic engagement around the world."

Facebook had previously tried to spur civic engagement by offering voter registration reminders, which have led to increases in registrations.

Over the past year, Facebook has been scrutinized by some in the media and liberal groups for its larger role in politics and the dissemination of "fake news" and hoax stories on its platform. Some of the company's critics charged that their proliferation has negatively influenced politics, and that Facebook did not do enough to mitigate their spread.

The company has since introduced features to label hoax stories as "disputed" and have them reviewed by third-party organizations.

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