CivNet vs. Facebook
• Charlie Wisoff
A question we often get is, "why use CivNet when there are so many other platforms out there?" Today, I want to talk in particular about social media. I'll focus on Facebook, but most of the comparisons apply more broadly.
There are two fundamental, philosophical differences between CivNet and Facebook. First, CivNet believes that people who engage in democracy deserve an equitable chance to be heard. Second, we believe that siloed channels of information harm democracy.
These philosophical tenents have far reaching implications for our functionality. With regards to equitable engagement, Facebook is "pay to play". Unless you have a budget to promote your pages, or you're able to create viral content, the reach of your message is limited. It's estimated that only 2-16% of people who liked your page will actually see your content. This tends to advantage organizations with money and/or a marketing team. It does not serve the interests of democracy. Money should not influence your ability to engage other people. With CivNet, on the other hand, people who join your community Project will always see your content unless they unsubscribe.
Content on Facebook is generally siloed in two ways. One, you tend not to see information you disagree with unless you seek it out. Two, information that is popular, that has a lot of "likes" and "shares" is privileged over information from sources that might not have as many followers or current supporters. CivNet users, on the other hand, see content based on what issues they care about (Education, Health, etc.). By showing people content based on the issues they care about, we are not shielding people from information they disagree with or from groups and people they are not already connected with. In addition, we do not attempt to guess what people want to see through an algorithm based off "likes", and we do not assume that popular content is more worthy. Change occurs at both micro and macro levels. Although large social movements are important, so are the groups creating community gardens or planning the next big thing. Our goal is help people see how all different levels of change are interconnected. Democracy is more than a popularity contest.