Another week, another feature gets added to the Facebook mobile app. In addition to the new City Guides and Weather buttons that were recently introduced in the Apps section, Facebook has added Town Hall to help you find your local government representatives on local, federal, and state levels. The feature fits in with CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s manifesto published last month, where he called for a focus on using Facebook to build a more civically engaged community (among other goals).
With Town Hall, you can enter your address to locate the government officials that represent your district. Facebook says it won’t share your address, though it doesn’t specify whether this information is saved. Town Hall does manage to identify officials down to your local council member.
Once your results are populated, you can use the list to follow the representatives’ Facebook pages or contact them by calling, emailing, or messaging. The options here vary depending on what information these officials have made available on their Facebook page. For example, you are able to contact New York Senator Kristen Gillibrand via all three of the aforementioned methods, but you’re only given the option to visit the Facebook page for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
The effort here is nice for those who want to use Facebook as a social venue for encouraging civic engagement. (As you might suspect, the act of following these officials can show up on your friends’ News Feeds, and Town Hall tells you how many of your friends have “connected” with a government representative.) But relying solely on what data these officials have provided on Facebook prevents it from being genuinely helpful. If your local official isn’t on Facebook, chances are you might not even see them appear on the search results. Additionally, contact information is publicly available on every one of these representatives’ official websites, and it’s a little disappointing to see Town Hall stop short of providing all the information it could to be useful.
But for now, it’s a start. Town Hall is rolling out now to users in the United States.
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