Facebook is trying to get out the vote in the US elections with prompts encouraging people to say they voted, then uses that data to chart “votes per minute” and the locations where ballots are being cast.
When I logged into Facebook today, I saw this message at the top of my news feed:
“It’s Election Day,” the message begins, then encourages those seeing it to “tell friends you’re voting” with a “I’m Voting” button. Pushing that brings up a confirmation message:
The confirmation thanks you for voting and shows the current number of people on Facebook who are voting, with a link to a map of votes. That leads to a Facebook Stories page about the election, topped by a “real time” voting map:
In reality, this isn’t a real time map of voting. It’s a real time map of people on Facebook saying they’ve voted, some of whom will be pushing that button well before or after they actually vote. For myself, I’m not voting for several hours. But as far as Facebook’s concerned, my vote has been cast and now mapped.
The same caveat is true of the “Votes per minute” chart that appears below the map:
Those aren’t actual votes per minute. Those are people pushing the “I’m voting” button on Facebook charted per minute. A note at the bottom of the page explains this:
This map is a representation of people on Facebook who clicked an Election Day prompt to share with their friends that they’re voting in the 2012 US election. The information displayed on Facebook Stories has been anonymized and aggregated.
The map displays bursts of activity as people share that they’re voting. The size of each burst matches the number of people voting in that region right now. The histogram shows a record of activity over time, with an additional breakdown by gender and age.
The page ends with a demographic breakdown by age and gender. So far, women are far more likely to click the “I’m voting” button than men:
For those trying to find their local polling place, Facebook also offers a Polling Location Search Tool, which gets promoted along with the “I’m Voting” button.
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