Election influencers: battle for Canterbury plays out on social networks|Politics|The Guardian
Local paper editors when managed the info that circled a town or little city throughout an election. In Canterbury in 2019, that power has actually fallen into the lap of the 32-year-old administrator of a Facebook group.
Edd Withers established the Canterbury Residents Group on Facebook 5 years earlier in an attempt to bridge the divide between the city’s large student population and its older homeowners. In an indication of the changing media environment that might form this election, what started as a community project to bring generations together has actually developed into a lively and frequently chaotic rolling political discussion about all manner of issues impacting the city.
In 2017, students and remain-leaning homeowners of Canterbury assisted Labour candidate Rosie Duffield do what numerous had thought difficult: turn a constituency that has actually voted Conservative for the past 160 years red. To hang on to her seat, which was won by a majority of 187 votes on a remarkable 72.7% turnout, Duffield faces a particular challenge, that of getting her message across to 2 demographics who consume their news on vastly various platforms.
Of the almost 100 Canterbury locals who called the Guardian about the tight race in their constituency, Withers’ Facebook group was discussed over a lots times. While one local explained it as “a great beginning indicate find the ‘genuine’ citizens and the concerns they are enthusiastic about”, another said they left the group “due to the fact that of the extreme views and bullying behaviour”.
With more than 35,000 members and approximately 600 posts a day, the group captured Facebook’s attention, and the company flew Withers out to their head office in California a couple of months ago to talk about how they might much better support him.
Facebook validated to the Guardian that it had welcomed Smithers to California as part of a series of events for people running such groups to share ideas on how to moderate neighborhoods and find out what works. Its interest is not surprising. The group is a notable exception to a digital divide in how young and older voters take in news and share info. While middle-aged and older citizens typically get their news from Facebook, the TV and online news websites, young voters have deserted the platform for Twitter, adding that they don’t have TELEVISION licences and are put off by political advertisements.
Withers said he was not interested in wielding any power and took a laissez-faire approach to content small amounts. Anything except hate speech and death risks enters the group. “My firm principle is we’ve got to let these individuals have these conversations,” he said. “It may seem tense often and just a platform for people to argue with each other, but that’s the point. It’s the beginning of a procedure that hopefully results in reconciliation.”