Facebook’s Town Hall Wants You To Message Politicians On Facebook

It's not clear whether they're listening

Illustration: Diana Quach
Mar 16, 2017 at 12:01 PM ET

Mark Zuckerberg is following up on his first promise from last month’s 5,800-word manifesto: develop a civically engaged community. Facebook is adding a Town Hall feature that lets users contact local government officials that represent their district.

The Town Hall feature can be found under “explore,” if you’re using the browser. Users will have to input their address in order for Facebook to display a list of representatives at local, federal and state levels. Facebook says it won’t display or share your address, but it doesn’t specify if it saves it. Once users have the list of reps, they’ll be able to email, call or message them directly — though it all depends on what features and information the reps have available on their Facebook page.

In New York, if you were to try and contact U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer, you only get the option to follow his page, Instagram or be redirected to his website. However, if you were to try and contact U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, you can message her directly via Messenger, email her or visit her website.

Zuckerberg announced last month that he’s trying to build an infrastructure for a global community and part of it was to increase engagement in existing political processes, including “voting, engaging with issues and representatives, speaking out and sometimes organizing.”

“Our society will reflect our collective values if we engage in the civic process and participate in self-governance,” Zuckerberg wrote in his letter. “Today, most of us do not even know who our local representatives are, but many policies impacting our lives are local, and this is where our participation has the greatest influence.”

Town Hall will also let you follow your representatives on Facebook and see which of your friends have connected with other government representatives, whether in your state or somewhere else.

The feature is currently only available in the U.S., but its unclear if Facebook will roll it out with other bodies of government in other countries.