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Could Facebook Be the Real Difference in Election 2012?



It’s getting closer and closer to November in the US and the that means only one thing this year: the presidential election is nearly upon us. Of course, the political ads, rhetoric and mudslinging are in full force already and if you are like me you are already sick of it. That won’t stop it from escalating as election day draws near and it looks like one of the biggest potential influencers could be none other than Facebook.

The social network and CNN have announced a partnership that could prove interesting for the party that has most of their constituency on the network. You can probably take a wild guess at that one. All Facebook reports

CNN and Facebook are gearing up for the 2012 presidential election Nov. 6 with the upcoming launch of Facebook application I’m Voting, as well as combining efforts to measure metrics about the presidential and vice presidential candidates, and conducting surveys.

I’m Voting will enable Facebook users to commit to vote for and endorse specific candidates and issues, and their commitments will be displayed on their timelines, news feeds, and tickers.

It used to be that your vote was your vote and it was somewhat of a private event. In this new age of openness, however, there may be less of a chance for that to be the case. I for one am not convinced this is a very good thing.

Think about it. I have friends on both sides of the aisle. I don’t agree with everyone on their political views but that doesn’t mean I can’t be friends with them. I prefer to have relationships with people of all walks. It’s more interesting that way. If the talk of politics is too volatile I won’t bother to broach the subject because, in my opinion, there isn’t a more idiotic way to create a rift between two people.

Many, however, live and die on the political front. Couple this with the near inability to be private about your vote (remember, if your friend calls you out on something in the social sphere and you decline then others will draw conclusions about your political choice and this could have unfortunate consequences in an emotionally super-charged political environment like the one that exists in the US) and there could be some rough social sledding ahead of us.

I am not saying that Facebook shouldn’t be working to get folks to vote but if there is any perceived bias (which you have already picked up on if you were paying attention) is that what the social media platform should be doing?

How does the potential for confrontation about your political choices in the social sphere impact you? If you don’t care who knows does that mean that everyone should share your desire to be as open? And, if they choose not to be as open as you might like, are you going to knock that ‘friend’ down a notch because they were either not playing along or they look like they don’t agree with you? Sounds petty but it will happen an it will happen a lot.

This is much different than 4 years ago. In the 2008 election people were just discovering the power of social media in the political realm. We have had a lot of time to get better at this but will that mean that the use of social media in the political space be better or will it simply turn ugly?

What are your thoughts on the level of influence that a social platform itself should wield in a political election? Is neutrality the ‘high road’ or is it simply a pipe dream? If CNN is doing this with Facebook should then Facebook give equal time to their opposite number (which is probably Fox News)? Is Facebook powerful enough to have some regulation in place like the broadcast networks do in some aspects of giving balanced time to one or the other? What if Super PACs want to pay Facebook boatloads of cash to ‘work together’?

What are your thoughts on this one? Let’s just say this will be a very interesting election season and the actual vote may be the least interesting part of all of it.