Facebook launches real-time visualization of voters

Using a feature that promotes peer updates, the social network reminds Americans to get out the vote.

Facebook's real-time visualization of people sharing that they've voted.
Screenshot by Leslie Katz/CNET

You may see a button on your Facebook news feed today that says "I'm a voter." The social network is sending a not-so-subtle message to its users to get to the polls on Election Day 2012.

Facebook launched the feature to remind Americans to get out and vote by sharing the update in users' news feeds. Once a you click on the button, Facebook redirects to a map of the United States that shows people across the country clicking on the button in real time.

Clicking a button on Facebook doesn't necessarily mean a person has voted, of course. But studies have suggested that activity on the social network has boosted voter turnout.

A study by the University of California at San Diego, cited by Facebook, suggests that updates reminding people it's Election Day or a visual of the clickable "I Voted" button, when associated to users' friends, turned out more votes. The researchers studied more than 60 million people on Facebook during the 2010 elections. Full details of the study can be found on U.C. San Diego's Web site.

"Our study suggests that social influence may be the best way to increase voter turnout," James Fowler, U.C. San Diego professor of political science said in a press release. "Just as importantly, we show that what happens online matters a lot for the 'real world.'"

Facebook's real-time voter map may not be an exact science, but it sure is fun. Now, don't forget to vote.

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