Facebook recently added Town Hall, a feature that allows people to contact their elected officials via phone call, a Facebook message or email. Facebook’s roll out of the new feature comes at a time when state and federal officials are drowning in calls from angry constituents in regards to many different issues and controversies within the Trump Administration.
You can find this feature either by looking under the "Explore" section of your News Feed on a computer, or by looking under the menu of the Facebook app on your mobile device. In order for Town Hall to find your elected officials, you have to submit your address for the purpose of pinpointing your location.The information on your elected officials comes from either the Facebook pages they possess or from a third-party contributor that Facebook uses called Cicero. Cicero is a database that is updated daily in order to accurately match people with their elected officials and legislative districts.
Once you are matched with your government officials, if you are on a computer, you hit “Contact,” and from there you are able to decide whether you want to send a message using Facebook or an email to the elected official. If you are on a mobile device, when you hit “Contact,” you also have the option to directly call them instead. Once you click “Follow,” which is next to “Contact” on the Town Hall app, you are giving yourself the option to contact one of your representatives directly every time you like or comment on one of their Facebook posts. Facebook will then ask you if you want to share the fact that you liked or commented on the post with other people who also follow that same elected official.
There are plenty of ongoing issues in our country that are worth bringing to your elected officials attention. For example, at the beginning of last month, the House of Representatives narrowly passed legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. Not only would this new legislation leave millions of Americans uninsured, but it would “defund” Planned Parenthood, leaving millions of college students unable to obtain affordable birth control, STD testing/treatment and other reproductive health procedures, meaning college students who care about this issue should contact their senators.
On a related note, late last month, the Republican controlled House of Representatives in Texas passed tough abortion restrictions. The legislation bans a second-trimester abortion procedure, known as dilation and evacuation; any doctor caught performing it faces felony charges. In addition, the bill also requires all fetal tissue to either be buried or cremated and prohibits the sale of the tissue. It is important to note that federal law already bans the sale of fetal tissue. Any college students living in Texas who support safe and legal abortions might want to contact their governor, Greg Abbott, to veto the bill.
Finally, another issue you could message about is our infrastructure problem. The pavement on highways is cracking and the highways themselves are not wide enough to hold the amount of cars that use them every day. Also, the foundations of bridges are crumbling due to age and lack of funding to make repairs. With the amount of college students who are commuters, it is important that our highways and bridges are safe, as well as usable. All interstate highways fall under federal jurisdiction, so if a federal highway near you needs repair, you should contact your federal representative for your district. In the case of local roads and bridges being in disrepair, you should contact the state representative of your district. If they do not seem to be acting on your complaints, contact your governor!
Will this new feature on Facebook be a good addition to the social media platform? It could be. According to the Journal, Nature, sharing voter participation on social media is proven to encourage that same participation from others. Plus, congressmen have noted that they are more likely to act on voters’ opinions when they receive a phone call, which Town Hall does allow a person to do. However, Facebook algorithms are programmed to display information on your newsfeed that you agree with based on articles and videos you have viewed previously. Will this feature only add to this echo chamber-like problem? Only time will tell.
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