Political interest spikes on Facebook

Political interest spikes on Facebook
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Overwhelmed by politics on your Facebook feed? There might be a reason.

Almost half of the social media network’s U.S. users have engaged in a conversation about the presidential election on Facebook this year.

The company told The Hill that 100 million people had generated 4 billion interactions — likes, comments, posts and shares — about the election through Aug. 1.

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Facebook has 205 million users in the United States each month, according to the most recent figures, meaning nearly half have engaged with content related to the election. 

Activity related to the contest has spiked in the last month.

Before July 1, 89 million people had produced 2.9 billion posts, comments, likes and shares. Another 11 million new people made their first entry into the conversation about the election in the subsequent four weeks or so.

Both the Republican and Democratic national conventions were held in July, which likely accounts for part of the jump. 

Between July 6 and Aug. 5, 41.5 million U.S. Facebook users generated interactions related to Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonThe Armageddon elections to come Poll: Trump leads 2024 Republican field with DeSantis in distant second The politics of 'mind control' MORE, and 49.2 people produced activity linked to Republican nominee Donald TrumpDonald TrumpDeputy AG: DOJ investigating fake Trump electors Former Boston Red Sox star David Ortiz elected to Baseball Hall of Fame Overnight Health Care — Senators unveil pandemic prep overhaul MORE.

Katie Harbath, the company’s global politics and government outreach director, hailed the level of engagement.

“Facebook is giving more people a voice in the political process, enabling a robust two-way dialogue between candidates and voters the likes of which we haven’t seen before,” she said in a statement.

The powerful company has worked aggressively to become more involved in U.S. politics, including by sponsoring lounges for political operatives and the media at primary debates and both conventions. It also has a team whose entire purpose is to sell advertisements to political campaigns of both parties.

It has occasionally become the subject of political controversy itself. Earlier this year, a former editor for the company's trending topics section anonymously alleged that some members of that team had suppressed news stories and source popular with conservatives. The company said that an internal investigation had found no evidence that the allegations were true but nonetheless announced that it would institute reforms to the way the feature is run.

The data provided by Facebook doesn’t indicate the tenor of users' involvement, however, meaning that users could be expressing positive, neutral or negative sentiments about the candidates or the race.