Facebook, Google gather questions for presidential debates

Using social media during debates is a natural evolution of the tech

Facebook and Google will have a role in the upcoming presidential debates.

Technology and social media companies have been tapped to help the American public engage with Donald Trump, the Republican nominee, and Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, during the three debates, according to the Commission on Presidential Debates, the organization running the high-profile events.

“Facebook and Google will be providing data to the moderators in the weeks leading up to the debates on what people are searching and saying about the election, the candidates, and the issues,” the commission explained on its website. “For the town hall debate, Facebook will be working with the moderators to help source questions for the candidates.”

Facebook also will be working on-site during the debates, helping students and members of the media use Facebook Live to broadcast what they’re seeing and experiencing at the universities where the debates will be held.

Facebook users will, of course, be able to watch the live broadcasts, as well as ask questions and comment, according to the debate commission.

The social media company also plans to note what users are talking about in regards to the election, the debates and the candidates.

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Yahoo all will live-stream the debates.

Snapchat also will be participating during the debates, compiling various users’ snapshots into what they’re calling a Live Story, which is designed to give people a sense of what’s going on at the debate venues.

Having social media companies participate in the debate process is a natural evolution, according to Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research.

“Debates started with expert moderators who formulated the questions,” he explained. “Then they started having some debates where questions were submitted from the audience, which kind of evolved into town hall-type events. Using social media gives them a very much larger audience, with an easier way to collect questions, plus the ability to get some sense of which questions are of interest to many members of the audience.”

Pulling social media into the debates also is a natural progression of how people are using the networks already.

With so many social network users already talking about, griping about and posting content about the election, using them to feed the debates is only logical, noted Gottheil.

“This could remind people to log in for the debates. It makes them more relevant,” he said. “The chance to get your question asked, if not answered, is pretty attractive.”

The presidential debates are being held Monday, Sept. 26, Sunday, Oct. 9 and Wednesday, Oct. 19.

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