There are only just few days left before Americans troop to the polling stations to vote for the 2016 presidential elections. Facebook opted to take a bigger part in the process by announcing Oct. 18 that users can now endorse a candidate for political office.
The new feature is similar to liking a Facebook post, an uploaded photo or an official Facebook page. However, the social media platform expanded the feature further. Once a user clicks the endorsement button located in the candidate's page, he or she will have to outline the reason for the endorsement.
"Similar to how politicians, newspapers, and organizations endorse candidates for elected office, this feature allows anyone on Facebook to do the same," Samidh Chakrabart, product manager for civic engagement at Facebook, said in an interview with Business Insider. "People who want to voice their support can visit a candidate's Page, click on the endorsements tab, and explain their rationale for choosing that candidate."
According to Facebook, the endorsement feature is part of its wider campaign to encourage the public to become more involved in the civic process. The company has already previously launched related initiatives within its platform such as the introduction of a messenger bot that will help people register to vote.
The level of complexity for posting endorsements makes the mechanics important. The requirement for a rationale could ensure that the system is not spammed by bots. After the first presidential debate, for example, 32.7 percent of favorable posts about Donald Trump in Twitter were made by automated accounts according actual study. This was made possible through the use of softwares that are now being labeled as part of computational propaganda, designed to manipulate or influence the tide of public opinion.
There is no similar study conducted in Facebook but developers could easily design applications especially since Facebook has been the target of similar activities in the past such as how Sanford Wallace has spammed Facebook users with a barrage of 27 million messages from 2008 to 2009.
It is not yet clear what measures Facebook is taking to ensure fair and authentic user endorsements. But in the feature's dedicated page, it appears that the candidate can choose to reject or publish an endorsement from a Facebook account.
Endorsements will only work on political candidates that registered their account as politician, political candidate or government official. Otherwise, the page owner will have to manually toggle the account's category.
Presently, Facebook endorsement is only limited to U.S. users. There is no word yet if it will also get implemented in other countries. Users must remember that the feature can be used not just for presidential candidates but even those gunning for low-level elective positions in the U.S. government such as candidates for the Board of Education and the City Council.