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Facebook’s Power in Elections

Social Media can have a powerful effect on the flow of information. This carries a large amount of significance for things like elections. A study that was done by Facebook showed that in relevance to voting that users being exposed to “hard news” had an increased amount of civic engagement. What this means is that the propagation of information through networks like facebook can have an impact on the way that important events. Facebook specifically, has algorithms that determine what gets shown in a user’s newsfeed and every change that gets made to that can have rippling effects based on the new things it does or does not show.

As for why people would be influenced on such things as voting decisions via Social Media sites, there are several factors, and Information Cascade is one of these. In an election season for example, the Facebook algorithm may choose to show you many of your friends statuses about the election, as well as embed new stories that may be relevant (and are very likely target at you specifically). If you are someone who doesn’t keep up to date with elections then seeing these opinions can have a strong effect on you as you may be influenced to make decision on the assumption that your friends who have displayed their decisions know more than you do about the subject. The result is that you are making decisions based on the decisions made before you, and social media site such as Facebook have large amounts of control over the specifics of how this cascade gets spread which in turn gives them some degree of power and influence.



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November 2014