Facebook is rolling out its voter registration reminder feature for the first time in India. The company has partnered with the Election Commission of India, to get “left out voters” to enroll with the Commission. Starting July 1, Facebook will be sending out reminders to users in 13 different languages, including English, Hindi, Tamil, Gujarati, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, Punjabi, Bengali, Urdu, Marathi, Assamese and Oriya.
So, a “register now” button will appear presumably at the top of your News Feed. Clicking on this will direct you to the National Voters’ Services Portal, that will guide users through the registration process.
While the nationwide reach is a first for India, Facebook’s partnership with the Election Commission started in 2016. The social network rolled out the “register to vote” button in 2016 and 2017, during various state elections, including Manipur, Goa, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab. The difference this time is that Facebook is targeting the entire country, instead of specific states.
“I am pleased to announce that the Election Commission of India is going to launch a ‘Special Drive to enrol left out electors,’ with a particular focus on first time electors. This is a step towards fulfilment of the motto of ECI that ‘NO VOTER TO BE LEFT BEHIND’,” said Nasim Zaidi, Chief Election Commissioner, Election Commission of India (ECI).
India accounts for the second largest user-base for Facebook, according to statista.com. As of April 2017, there are 213 million Facebook users from India, behind only the 219 million that use the social network in the US. The social network also announced today that it had reached a worldwide user-base of 2 billion.
While Facebook’s initiative in India could help reach more voters, the social network has been embroiled in controversy regarding political matters even since Donald Trump’s election in the United States. Facebook has been accused of promoting fake news, which directly impacted President Trump’s election.
The social network itself has acknowledged the spread of fake news on its network and has been working on tools and methods to tackle the problem. In April 2017, Facebook started offering tips to users aimed at spotting fake news. Voter registration is one of the many ways in which Facebook is able to reach the voter base in a country. While this particular initiative simply gets voters onboard, the way Facebook controls the spread of information gives it immense power in shaping the political conversation in a country.