Mark Zuckerberg has announced a new Facebook feature: “Town Hall,” a service to help you contact your elected representatives. It also gives you voting reminders about upcoming elections in your area.
“The more you engage with the political process, the more you can ensure it reflects your values,” Zuckerberg wrote in his announcement. “This is an important part of feeling connected to your community and your democracy, and it’s something we’re increasingly focused on at Facebook.”
Recently, Facebook has received negative press in the political realm, both directed at the fake news circulating on its site and inspired by the mounting evidence that the website deepens partisan divides. Town Hall seems to be an attempt to make Facebook into a more politically constructive force.
Using the feature is really easy: It takes just two steps. Once you’re at the Town Hall page, enter your address and a list of your local, state, and federal representatives will appear. Facebook notes that it won’t display or share your address, but as always, be wary when entering any personal information online.
From there, you can “follow” or “contact” any of your representatives. It lists only one phone number for each person, even though many officials have several numbers. (Congress members, for example, have at least one Washington number and one local number; Town Hall seems to mostly list the D.C. number.) If you can’t reach your representative by using the number listed on Facebook, definitely try searching for a different one elsewhere online. That’s a great hack to get through phone traffic at busy times.
In addition to phone numbers, Town Hall gives the option of connecting with representatives over Facebook Messenger and lists their physical addresses. Even officials as high up as President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are included on the list, so if you like, you can go message Trump on Facebook right now.
So far, Town Hall is only available in the United States. It will be interesting to see whether Facebook eventually tries to help facilitate political participation abroad, too. Hey, you can’t say Zuckerberg doesn’t dream big.