Technology

New Facebook tools aim to help connect lawmakers, constituents

Facebook released on Wednesday a new set of tools to help facilitate civic engagement and discourse between voters and their representatives.

The new tools give both constituents and lawmakers more targeted means of interacting with another, and are a part of Facebook's larger push to introduce civically focused features to the platform.

"Election Day reminders for us are just the beginning of the conversation," said Facebook chief privacy officer Erin Egan, speaking of the company's earlier prompts for users to show up to the polls.

Facebook's three new targeted tools now give users the options to show lawmakers that they are a constituent from their district, show lawmakers what topics are trending among their own constituents and allow lawmakers to share posts targeted specifically to their voters.

The "Constituent Badge," feature will allow users to opt in to displaying a badge that they are a part of a lawmaker's district, so that they lawmakers can know that they're engaging with those they represent.

Along with the new badges, Facebook introduced "Constituent Insights," a tab that allows lawmakers and their staff to see what topics and news stories their constituents are talking about. If there is a spike in discussions about something like crime, or the budget, representatives would be able to see this. A developer noted that trending news stories among constituents wouldn't just be limited to news stories, so that they could get full insights on what their districts are discussing.

The "Districting Targeting," feature allows to lawmakers to make posts visible only to their district, with the idea of turning posts into a "mini community meeting." The company also noted that in addition to posts targeted directly to districts, representatives would have the option of targeting live videos as well.

"In general, we would have an older demographic at town hall meetings," said Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.) in a to a crowd of Hill staffers and reporters at Facebook's D.C. headquarters on Wednesday.

"You're getting access or engagement with certain folks but you're missing a huge sector of who you're supposed to be representing," Graves continued, saying that the new features would help his office reach younger constituents.

Facebook's new tools comes amid the company's push to repair its image in the media and political spaces. The company took significant criticism during the 2016 election for being a platform for the dissemination of "fake news" or hoax stories. Hillary Clinton derided the platform last week saying that it needs to to monitor content passed around on Facebook more closely.

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