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Facebook: a politician’s best friend

Gone are the days when Facebook was simply used to reconnect with old pals and to stay updated.  I’ll admit that sometimes I do still get sidetracked scrolling through old photos , but the platform functions have certainly changed.

The social platform is about far more than staying in touch with friends and creeping on old flames. Many businesses use it to promote their products and services. When poll time rolls around, politicians turn to Facebook to build their following.

Ontario residents are preparing to cast ballots in  the provincial election this year, and as June 7th approaches, many politicians are relying on Facebook, by posting ads that cater to individual interests of voters.

The platform now allows campaigns to micro-target voters based on age, location, interests, gender and political positions. This tactic is helpful to  parties because it targets a more widespread audience.

Facebook stores such a massive amount of data that outlines users’ interests and the new techniques used by politicians to capitalize on it. It’s for this reason that one person might see an ad from a political party about slashing taxes, and someone else, might see an ad from the same party focusing on health care.

Although political ads on Facebook were used by Canadian parties for a number of years, it is the variation and intricate targeting that has now reached a new level. The ads are much more sophisticated.

They are not only far-reaching, but are also extremely low in cost, which makes it an even more effective campaigning tool for politicians.

 I do find the pooling of information worrisome, especially after the Cambridge Analytica issue that brought Zuckerberg to a formal inquiry. The Cambridge firm had access to  private information of more than 600,000 Canadians, and over 80 million Facebook users globally while execs of the social media platform sat on the information knowingly until outed by a whistleblower.

I  am not a fan of the platform currently, because the ads and sponsored posts that are meant to target my interests, seem to have taken over my homepage. I miss the days when Facebook was for catching up and daydreaming over my friends’ travel photos and becoming nostalgic over relatives’ family photos. But the business and entrepreneurial  side of me gets it.

Canadian government finally lets its youth speak

When I was in university, my biggest pet peeve was how politicians completely ignored youth. I was a political science major, and more than anything I wanted the people sitting in Parliament to ask for my opinion — what did I think about the cost of tuition; what did I think about the latest tax increase; what did I think about the democratic process?

But no one ever asked me. This is why young people are so apathetic. They want to speak — if only someone would listen.

Well, it looks like someone finally has. Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that he was spearheading a Youth Council, consisting of 30 people between the ages of 16 and 24. These youth will meet a number of times a year, both in person and online, to discuss important issues and then propose recommendations to the Prime Minister’s office.

According to the government website, the council “will advise the Prime Minister on national issues such as employment, access to education, building stronger communities, climate change and clean growth.”

The council is supposed to be non-partisan.

I would like to give Justin Trudeau a hug — a very big bear hug — for not only coming up with this idea, but for ensuring it is actually put into practice.

During the 2015 federal elections, I went to a debate held in my riding. It was a town-hall style debate, where constituents could ask questions of the candidates. To my surprise, a large number of young people showed up.  They asked about what the candidates could do for them and most could not give them answers. They had all prepared stump speeches that were relevant to working moms, single parents, and old people with a pension. They didn’t know what to do when a 16- or 17-year-old asks about transit or funding for education — despite the fact that most of these young people pay taxes and deserve to be part of the conservation. This type of question-shock shouldn’t be possible in 21st century democracy.

The average young person is informed. They read the news online and they talk about it with their parents and friends. They are involved in school clubs and university groups, and they advocate for freedoms and rights others may not have. They WANT to be active in politics, but they also want to feel as if what they say (or ask) matters.

This Youth Council should, hopefully, provide these young people with a national platform to voice their opinions. They can finally contribute to national policy in a meaningful way. Who knows what kind of results will arise from these council meetings, but if anything it is the first step to altering political stereotypes of apathetic youth. And that is an amazing thing.