Facebook Features Connect Lawmakers With Constituents

Griffin Connolly at RollCall: “Facebook users now have the option to pin “constituent badges” to their profiles, letting friends — and members of Congress — know which district they live in. And users can now search for articles, links, and posts that other residents in their districts engage with most frequently.

“When we think about civic engagement, we think about building communities of people,” said Erin Egan, Facebook’s vice president of U.S. public policy. “And this is about making sure that people engage with government.”

The new features can also help identify the issues that voters care about most. That could be a valuable tool for lawmakers — and their opponents — during election season.

“I’ve always been fascinated by how the internet helps citizens have a voice like never before,” Samidh Chakrabarti, Facebook’s head of civic engagement, told reporters and congressional staffers at the unveiling Wednesday. “But at the same time, it makes it more complicated for decision-makers to actually make sense of it all.”

Facebook’s new technology can help, he said.

The constituent badge unlocks a number of possibilities for lawmakers looking to engage voters more directly.

They can now choose to make their posts available exclusively to voters in their district, which Facebook calls “district targeting.” In the past, policymakers could only post publicly from their pages….

The badge tool also enables lawmakers to host virtual town halls with an exclusive audience of their own constituents via the Facebook Live streaming medium and to tailor their messages to a narrower band of local media sources and citizens.

One unintended consequence of these more private Facebook Live sessions is that reporters who don’t live in a lawmaker’s district may not be able to view it. Facebook users can only provide one address, and that determines their constituent badge. …

A number of tech-savvy lawmakers have led the charge in leveraging new social media features and platforms to promote their image and policies.

In March, two Texas House members, Democrat Beto O’Rourke and Republican Will Hurd, struck out on a multiday “bipartisan road trip” from the Lone Star State back to Washington, using Facebook Live and the livestreaming app Periscope to update viewers and answer questions on policy.

Democrat Rick Nolan and Republican Jason Lewis copied that approach in April when the two Minnesota congressmen traveled back to their home state.

Louisiana Republican Rep. Garret Graves, who spoke at the Facebook unveiling on Wednesday, has gone full bore with his use of Facebook Live, hosting town halls every Friday around lunchtime and periodically on evenings throughout the week….(More)”