MoveOn’s Vote Buddy Uses Facebook to Influence Friends’ Voting

Political advocacy group MoveOn.org sought to rock the liberal vote at the eleventh hour with the launch late last week of Vote Buddy, a Facebook app that lets people encourage their friends to vote.

The app lets Facebook users create or join an existing voting block—essentially an ad hoc online Facebook group. They can then invite new friends to the block, inform them of their own voting plans, request they pledge to vote and follow-up on the voting results. Those who don’t have Facebook can do the same by emailing friends manually and providing a link to the MoveOn Vote Buddy page.

“The Net is inherently social and we believe it has greater power to mobilize voters than any other tool,” said Josh Segall, a spokesperson for Fight For the Future, the non-profit, non-partisan group that developed the app, which it calls Vote With Friends. Fight for the Future, which says its role is to “work to expand the Internet’s power for good,” made its Vote For Friends app available to any interested groups about two weeks ago, Segall said.

At last tally on Facebook, the app had drawn some 3,534 MoveOn members. Other groups using the app include progressive organization Rebuild the Dream, Huffington Post, YogaVotes—an attempt to get yoga advocates to the polls— Gun Rights and Save our Constitution and Freedom.

This isn’t the first such application. Facebook and CNN have also launched an “I’m Voting App” to enable users to inform each other of voting plans via Facebook, for example. But Segall claims his organization’s app provides some more in-depth features. For example, it taps into publicly-available data obtained from startups Votizen and Catalist about users’ voting histories, determining when they last voted for example, or if they are unregistered. Segall said the app is still imperfect in this area as it is difficult to determine the voting histories of individuals with commonly used names.

He also conceded that the launch of the MoveOn app might be a little on the late side to really influence this election, but his organization will keep developing the app for the future, working on features such as the ability to identify people by their age and location, for example.

A recent study of public voter rolls in the 2010 U.S. Congressional elections showed that people who saw that their Facebook friends were voting were more likely to vote themselves, according to MoveOn. Segall cited a study published recently in Nature magazine that concluded that a single banner message on Facebook directly spurred 60,000 more people to vote in the 2010 election than would have voted otherwise.

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