Could Facebook be a factor in the next election?

This morning’s Observer column:

There are two things about 2015 of which one can be reasonably certain: there will be a general election in May and it’s unlikely to produce an overall majority for either of the two big parties. In those circumstances, small, localised events might have big implications: a Ukip candidate shoots his mouth off about, er, non-white people; a Labour candidate turns out to have an embarrassing past; a Tory garagiste cannot differentiate between sexual harassment and bum pinching. The kind of stuff, in other words, that could affect the outcome in a finely balanced constituency.

Which brings us to social media and the question of whether the 2015 general election could be the first one in which the outcome is affected by what goes on there. Could Facebook, for example, be a factor in determining the outcome of some local constituency battles?

Far-fetched? Maybe. But the question is worth asking because in the 2010 US congressional elections, Facebook conducted an interesting experiment in social engineering, which made some of us sit up…

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