Facebook is Using Town Hall to Help Governments Target Constituents

Facebook's Town Hall feature is barely out of the box, and already they're looking at ways to make it more intuitive. In a new update, they've made it much easier for government officials to track insights for specific constituencies, data which could be invaluable for targeted advertising. Given how prevalent Facebook has become for political campaigning, this is big.

Following the update, users will be able to place a badge on their profile indicating which district they live in. This opt-in feature will enable political officials to identify who their constituents are and appeal to them directly. Facebook is also limiting address changes to minimise the chances of 'fake' constituency members upsetting the figures.

Alongside this, officials will also have access to 'constituent insights' and 'district targeting'. The former shows which kinds of posts are popular in a given constituency, which could enable officials to figure out which issues are worth paying attention to, whether or not their political opponents are gaining any traction, and when they should voice their own opinion on matters. That's a useful addition for sure, but it pales in comparison to district targeting.

It might sound like a euphemistic, newspeak term for an air strike, but in fact district targeting is a way of targeting posts directly to constituents. That could be a poll, a campaign ad, a local event, whatever applies. Normally, constituents have to reach out to their local government to raise issues, but this way to local government is going directly to them. Only local people will be able to view the content, which in and of itself will encourage them to post more, knowing there's less chance of it flying over the heads of the people who need to know about it.

Facebook have taken a lot of criticism for their approach to politics, and many of those critics have suggested that it's more suited to local, civic politics than national or global politics. Judging from this change, Facebook have taken heed of that, and are taking steps to strengthen that arm of the platform.

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