Facebook is prompting its users to register to vote on Thursday, in conjunction with the Electoral Commission, marking the company’s first intervention into British electoral politics.
The social network is joining forces with the Electoral Commission to promote a reminder at the top of newsfeeds on Thursday, which is national voter registration day.
Elizabeth Linder, Facebook’s politics and government specialist for Europe, said: “Over 35 million people in the UK use Facebook, considerably more than the number of people who voted in the last general election.
“We’re seeing that many of them are already using the platform to have their say on who should govern this country …. We hope that through partnerships like this one with the Electoral Commission, we can make sure those conversations lead to higher turnout on 7 May.”
The reminder, which follows the format of similar exercises in the US and India, will let users create a new “life event” on the site to tell friends that they have registered to vote, and will be run in conjunction with an Electoral Commission campaign to encourage voter registration amongst 17-year-olds who turn 18 before the election.
In the 2010 midterm elections in the US, when Facebook ran a similar campaign, it increased turnout by almost a third of a million people, according to a study by the University of California, San Diego.
In America’s 2012 presidential election Facebook conducted a battery of experiments to test the efficacy of various interventions. It showed 1.9 million users an increased number of hard news stories, which increased turnout amongst that cohort; it randomised the effect, design and placement of the “I’m voting” button; and it even hid it entirely from some users.
The results of the experiment were published in a 2014 paper titled A 61-million-person experiment in social influence and political mobilization.
Alex Robertson, Director of Communication at the Electoral Commission, said “We’re delighted to be working in partnership with Facebook again to reach those who will be eligible to vote on polling day.
“We saw at the Scottish Independence Referendum that young people are passionate and engaged about the issues that affect their lives. It’s vital that we continue to reach them on platforms like Facebook with information that’s accessible to them.”