Thursday, September 14, 2017

Voting is open

The Facebook video above is from the Electoral Commission, and is from their "I Vote" Facebook Page. It's also a TV commercial currently being broadcast. Advance voting began on Monday, and continues right through until September 22 (Election Day is Saturday, September 23). Voters can vote at a number of places in or near their Electorate, and if they're not registered to vote they can register and vote at the same time, but they cannot register on Election Day.

I'm sharing this video because it's a TV commercial, but the video is only available through Facebook, which makes this a bit problematic.

Up until now, Electoral Commission commercials have been posted, eventually, to their YouTube Channel, but they haven't done that since August 6. The only videos they've posted since then have been instructional videos and short messages, the latter of which could be seen as sort of commercials, and may even be useful for sharing on social media, but they seem sort of orphaned on YouTube (they don't seem to have been posted to Facebook, for example, and as far as I know, they haven't been broadcast). This seems limiting.

I don't have any problem with any organisation posting their videos directly to Facebook—it makes it very easy to share them with other Facebook users, after all. But Facebook videos are not necessarily easy to embed elsewhere: Every single time I do it I have to figure it out all over again because it's not intuitive in any way. But the bigger problem I have with this trend is that Facebook is a mostly closed ecosystem, and posting videos only to Facebook necessarily limits their availability to people who want to share them, and to the non-Facebook using general public who may be interested in seeing them. I'm not sure that having them available for embedding outside of Facebook only to people with access to Facebook in the first place is good idea.

This is not a Facebook v. YouTube thing—they both have their pluses and minuses. Also, there are other options for sharing videos than just those two places. Rather, this is about maybe—just maybe—giving Facebook too much influence over how information is shared. Nowadays, media companies, politicians, and individuals alike are live-streaming events that are only discoverable to other Facebook users, while similar public YouTube live videos are accessible to anyone.

Another problem with Facebook, apart from only being readily available to other Facebook users, is that only things posted publicly on Facebook—posts, photos, videos—can be embedded outside of Facebook (which means nothing from my personal Facebook can be shared except with a very limited audience of Facebook users, and with no one outside Facebook; things posted to my AmeriNZ Facebook Page can be shared because they're always public). I can't remember the last time I wanted to embed a YouTube video that didn't allow that.

I don't have the answer, but I favour maximum shareability for things that are inherently public, like the video above. Right now, Facebook-only doesn't meet that requirement. Maybe one day it will. Right now, though, I think we need more openness in sharing and accessibility, and Facebook just doesn't provide that.

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