Facebook says it's helped register more than 2 million voters

The social network talks politics and live video during The Wall Street Journal's WSJD Conference. The company also demoed a prototype live video filter.

Richard Nieva Former senior reporter
Richard Nieva was a senior reporter for CNET News, focusing on Google and Yahoo. He previously worked for PandoDaily and Fortune Magazine, and his writing has appeared in The New York Times, on CNNMoney.com and on CJR.org.
Richard Nieva
2 min read

Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg says half of Facebook's users are democrats and half are republican.

Allison Shelley, Getty Images

You probably hear friends -- and possibly foes -- offering political rants on Facebook, but that's far from the social network's only effect on US election.

Facebook has helped more than 2 million people register to vote, Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said Tuesday, the result of the company prompting its users to participate in both primary and general elections.

Sandberg, who was speaking at The Wall Street Journal's WSJD conference in Laguna Beach, California, also said Facebook users are split 50/50 between Democrats and Republicans.

"We believe in giving people voice," Sandberg said. "We really believe that we can help people register to vote and increase political participation. And that will be good for everyone, not just in the US but around the world."

Data from election officials seem to back her up. Nine states, including California and Indiana, publicly credited Facebook for a surge in registration numbers, according to a report earlier this month by The New York Times.

As Facebook has grown -- it has 1.65 billion users -- it's played an increasingly important role in politics. It's a digital town hall for people to post their opinions. Sandberg touted the fact that every member of Congress is now on Facebook. And on Monday, Donald Trump, the Republican presidential candidate, launched a nightly campaign show on Facebook Live, the social network's live video streaming service.

Facebook Live has been a huge focal point for the company, outside of politics as well. The company has made a push toward getting regular people to broadcast themselves live to Facebook.

The social network clearly believes in live video as its future. Product Chief Chris Cox, who shared the stage with Sandberg on Tuesday, said live video will be 70 percent of Facebook's mobile traffic within the next five years.

Cox demoed a prototype feature for live video to engage new users. He called it "style transfer," and it superimposes filters in the style of different artists -- like Georgia O'Keefe or Vincent Van Gogh -- over live video. It looks similar to the popular photo filter app Prisma. There's still no timeline for when that might reach users, Cox said.

Live video has also created some tough questions for Facebook about what it should or shouldn't show on the site. In July, a Minnesota woman named Diamond Reynolds used the service to live-stream her fiance Philando Castile after he was shot by police. The next day, Facebook Live captured the scene as five Dallas police officers were gunned down during a peaceful demonstration.

"We're evolving as a service," Sandberg said, adding that Facebook will make exceptions to video and other posts that would normally violate the company's community guidelines for newsworthy stories.

Sandberg was referring specifically to Facebook removing the iconic Vietnam War photo "Napalm Girl" because it depicted a young naked girl. The company later put the image back up.