Facebook is encouraging users to engage with their elected officials using the platform’s new “Town Hall” feature.
“It identifies your elected officials — even local ones — sends reminders to vote and goads you to pick up the phone,” explained The Wall Street Journal on Monday. “On the web, Town Hall is accessible via a blue icon on the right side of members’ News Feed. On phones, it lives with other Facebook tools under a button with three vertical bars.”
“One of Town Hall’s most useful capabilities is identifying your elected officials. To do that, you have to tell Facebook where you live,” they continued. “The more precise you are, the more representatives it will identify. Many Facebook members already share some location information, and an address you enter in Town Hall won’t be displayed, shared or used to serve ads, says Facebook.”
The Wall Street Journal also added that “now when you post about one of your representatives on Facebook, the social network will prompt you to ‘share your thoughts directly’ by more traditional means — phone, fax or mail.”
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg outlined his plans for expanding community “social infrastructure” on the social network last month.
“Today’s threats are increasingly global, but the infrastructure to protect us is not… Humanity’s current systems are insufficient to address these issues,” said Zuckerberg. “For the past decade, Facebook has focused on connecting friends and families… With that foundation, our next focus will be developing the social infrastructure for community — for supporting us, for keeping us safe, for informing us, for civic engagement, and for inclusion of all.”
Last week, Facebook started to roll out their “fake news” fact-checking feature, which relies on partisan services such as Snopes.
In an article, The Daily Mail provided screenshots and a video of Facebook alerting a user when they attempt to post an article on “The Irish Slave Trade” by Newport Buzz.
“Before you share this content, you might want to know that the fact-checking sites, Associated Press and Snopes.com disputed its accuracy,” alerted Facebook, before giving the user the option to find out more about “disputed content,” cancel, or “post anyway.”
When users clicked to find out more about “disputed content,” Facebook gave the option to visit the Associated Press and Snopes, along with a caption claiming “sometimes people share fake news without knowing it.”
As reported last week, the term “fake news” has often been used to describe independent or alternative news sources, particularly those with a conservative or libertarian view-point, such as Breitbart News.
In November, a professor at Merrimack College, Massachusetts, included Breitbart News in her “fake news” list, which went viral online. Despite this, several news outlets have been exposed by Breitbart News for publishing their own “fake news,” including the Independent, the Daily Beast, CNN (numerous times), the Atlantic, The New York Times, and The Washington Post.
Despite Facebook’s use of Snopes as an allegedly “neutral” fact-checking service, many of Snopes’ fact-checkers were also discovered by conservative media to be openly left-wing and self-described “progressives.”
As Breitbart News reported in December, Snopes fact-checker Arturo R. Garcia openly labels himself as a “progressive,” attempted to compare Trump supporters to racists on Twitter, misattributed a quote about him to Breitbart News, and acts as the editor of “Racialicious” – “A blog about the intersection of race and culture”.
Fellow Snopes fact-checker Bethania Palmer attempted to link Trump to the KKK, defended a racist professor, wrote numerous left-wing articles for Raw Story — including two attempting to associate former Breitbart News executive chairman Stephen K. Bannon to domestic violence and white supremacy — and acts as a contributor for the “progressive” non-profit Truthout.
David Emery, another fact-checker and staff writer at Snopes, even once openly asked on Twitter whether there were “any un-angry Trump supporters.”
Despite their clear political biases, all three were tasked with fact-checking political candidates over the 2016 presidential election under the guise of a neutral service.
Zuckerberg, who has donated to numerous Democratic Party officials, including Charles Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, and Cory Booker, as well as establishment Republicans, such as Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio, penned his plan to tackle “fake news” last month, highlighting his intention to roll out the fact-checking feature.