What if voters could express approval for legislation making its way through Congress just as simply as clicking “like” on a video of cute baby seals shared on Facebook? House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has quietly developed a Facebook app for constituents to do just that, allowing them to track legislation and “cosponsor” bills with one click.
“New media is to me another place for people to express opinions, share ideas and come together. And it’s just been an unbelievable connector for people around the world,” the Virginia Republican said in an interview with Buzzfeed, adding that he “look[s] at it as an outlet, and really an interactive forum so that we have a chance to engage.”
In the interview, Cantor hailed the rise of new media but also noted it “provides a challenge. When we are formulating a policy and all of sudden someone forms an opinion and there goes a tweet, it can very easily set without much percolating as an idea … that’s just the way it is. I think you get more benefit with the back and forth that goes on with Twitter, Facebook and all the rest and I think you tend to make a better product.”
Cantor acknowledged that Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites allow consumers “to get the news from the source they like, the content they like [and] it tends to harden people’s perspective and philosophy … because people don’t come from that shared news experience anymore.”
The Citizen Cosponsor app aims to deliver some of that shared experience. It’s built on top of Facebook’s Open Graph — which services like Spotify, Pinterest and Farmville use to connect people. Users who install the app can sign up for alerts on specific measures before Congress to track their progress, and can comment on and “cosponsor” bills, which posts an item about the bill on the user’s Facebook Timeline.But are the social media making Congress more or less deliberative?