During President Trump's failed attempt to repeal Obamacare, members of Congress were deluged with phone calls, letters and emails opposing the Republican bill. That kind of civic engagement just got a little bit easier: Now, you can contact your Congressional representative on Facebook, thanks to a new tool the social media company unveiled on Monday.
The feature is called Town Hall, and it's pretty straightforward: Just go to the Town Hall page, enter your address, and you'll be presented with a list of who represents you in Congress. Next to each representative's name is a "contact" button, which will present you with their address and phone number, as well as a button to email them. If you're on a mobile device, it's even easier, as Town Hall will present you with a button to call your representative directly.
Even if you don't want to enter your home address, Town Hall will still give you contact information for your statewide representatives, assuming you've selected a state of residence on your Facebook profile.
"Building a civically-engaged community means building new tools to help people engage in a thoughtful and informed way," Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a post unveiling the new feature. "The starting point is knowing who represents you and how you can make your voice heard on the decisions that affect your life."
From a technological standpoint, this tool isn't anything special, as there are already plenty of websites devoted to identifying your congressional representatives. It's not as if this information is secret; the Town Hall feature is essentially a directory of information that's already publicly available.
But Facebook's new tool most definitely makes the process easier. For many people, such as those who don't drown themselves in political news every day, contacting a representative is a daunting and unfamiliar concept. By integrating this process with a service that millions of Americans already know and use on a daily basis, Facebook is making civic action like this far more accessible to the average person, and that's undoubtedly a good thing.
“What everyone has learned over the past seven days is how difficult it is to find the contact information for elected officials,” Black Lives Matter activist Deray McKesson told Vanity Fair. “It’s why you’ve seen so many groups and organizers push people toward different numbers or e-mail addresses. Facebook, with its sheer user base, highlighting this as an important part of their platform will only increase the amount of people who are connecting.”
If the battle over Trumpcare has taught America anything, it's that contacting your representative is not an exercise in futility. It is, rather, a crucial part of the democratic process, and Facebook deserves credit for making it just a little bit easier for average Americans to be engaged.