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Why Facebook's 'Voter Megaphone' Is the Real Manipulation to Worry About

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, July 3 2014

Two years ago, on the morning of the 2012 election in the United States, I got an email with an urgent subject line: "You should write the story of how Facebook blew an opportunity to turn out 300k voters." The sender, a veteran progressive online activist who would prefer to remain anonymous, was upset for good reason. The election was bound to be close, and as of 10am that morning he hadn't yet seen an "I'm Voting" button on his Facebook page, nor had another colleague of his. Nor was one on my own Facebook page. Given that when Facebook deployed a similar "I Voted" button in 2010, and added messages in users' News Feeds showing them the names and faces of friends who had said they voted, the cumulative effect boosted turnout then by at least 340,000 votes, these activists had good reason to be concerned. Facebook had announced that it was going to do the same thing in 2012, and this time around its American user base had grown enormously, from 61 million to more than 160 million. A social and visible nudge like an "I 'm Voting" button had the potential to measurably increase turnout, even more so as Facebook was including a useful tool to help people find their polling places. And yet on Election Day 2012 its deployment was far from universal. Facebook was conducting research on us. Read More

First POST: Losers

BY Micah L. Sifry | Friday, October 4 2013

Exclusively for Personal Democracy Plus subscribers:: The secret list where Ted Cruz plots strategy; The American Prospect gives Jim Gilliam a full-length feature profile; Bitly shares real-data traffic data for the top 40 media sites in the US; and much, much more. Read More

In Facebook Nation, Privacy Activists Trigger a Vote On Policy

BY Nick Judd | Friday, June 1 2012

Facebook's American stance on privacy clashes with European expectations. Image: Paul Butler

Way back in the long-long ago, before Facebook was a publicly traded company, the site established a governance policy that it said created room for its users to become part of the in-crowd that establishes its rules and norms. That hasn't stopped the regular reoccurrence of freakouts over design changes, revolts against adjustments to the terms of service, and the departure of this or that prominent writer or tech-head. After all, the governance mechanism — under which the company pledges to open up for broader user debate any proposed policy changes to accrue over 7,000 comments — had only been used once before.

Until today, that is, when a group of users led by Austrian Facebook birddogger Max Schrems accrued nearly 48,000 comments on proposed changes to the social network's data use policy. As a result, the policy is up for a vote by all Facebook users, presenting a rare test of the social network's ability to balance its status as a publicly traded company with its unique place in the digital public square.

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