Mention Facebook as a tool of political communication and you get very mixed reactions, and loads of issues emerge. The jury is certainly out on whether risks outweigh benefits, whether it represents reaching out or dumbing down or, perhaps most importantly, if it is about individuals communicating with individuals or individuals marketing themselves to potential voters. They are all accepted arguments for and critiques against! Here is an interesting example. With the European Parliamentary Elections on the horizon the Green Party are organising and one part of their mobilisation strategy is via Facebook. Their party group has been going for just short of two years, there is an active group that share links, event and campaigning ideas via the wall, it has 2,260 members and the admins include current MEP and party leader Caroline Lucas who is also an individual member. All good but nothing special one could argue.
But as the election nears what the party is looking for are activists, in fact messages from the group invite volunteers willing to do: "leafleting, mobilising members and potential supporters, writing letters to the local press, helping to create events for visiting Euro-candidates, watching for hustings opportunities…" The email calls it an Obama-style ground-level campaign and is aimed at the student activist seeking to add to their CV, but it also represents a way of targeting the people they need to. If they are prepared to join a 'Green Party' group and publicise their support they are likely to be at least interested in the idea of greater involvement and hence willing to be be encouraged to take part. So while it easy to condemn Facebook as mind-numbing and a thief of time it is enabling communication between the Green Party and a group of supportive individuals that may be hard to replicate if social networks did not exist. So, based on that argument, could an MP not also gain s similar support base within a constituency via Facebook that could be encouraged to be actively supportive at times of an election?