Facebook offering 'speed dial' approval in political debates

Facebook dial - ready to go
Facebook dial - ready to go

Facebook users will be able to rate the main candidates during their live television debates ahead of the election, with a 'dial test' monitoring users' opinions in real time.

Technology is already playing a much larger roll in the forthcoming election than it ever has before, and the Speed Dial promises real-time social feedback on whether Labour's PM Gordon Brown, the Conservatives' David Cameron and Lib Dems leader Nick Clegg are appealing to the Facebook generation.

"With Britain's first ever prime ministerial debate taking place on Thursday, Facebook's 23 million UK users are being invited to participate in a mass "dial test" which will enable them rate the debates in real time and provide instant feedback on the performance of the three party leaders," explained Facebook.

"The dial test will give a detailed, moment-by-moment snapshot of exactly how voters up and down the country are reacting to the debate between the three candidates for prime minister. "Never before has this kind of online opinion test been attempted on this scale or at this level of sophistication in the UK."

Rate the debate

The Speed Dial works by asking users to rate, during the debates, to use the dial to indicate how much they agree or disagree with the debates as they happen.

So when the Digital Economy Act gets mentioned you would imagine that leading parties might not win the approval they desire, following its controversial passage through Parliament.

"The first prime ministerial debates are a landmark moment in British politics, but the rigid rules mean that the voters themselves have a limited role, said Richard Allan, Facebook's Director of European Public Policy

"The mass dial test changes that completely. The Facebook dial test enables millions of voters to say exactly what they think of the three leaders' performances and to wrest back control from politicians.

"2010 is the UK's first ever social media election, and the dial test shows how voters can get involved on a scale never seen before. The dial test will provide a true barometer of the public mood and will define how the impact of the debates is interpreted."

A nice idea – but will it jar with a Facebook generation whose social network site represents poking and picture tagging rather than their political cares?

The first debate is on Thursday 15 April.

Patrick Goss

Patrick Goss is the ex-Editor in Chief of TechRadar. Patrick was a passionate and experienced journalist, and he has been lucky enough to work on some of the finest online properties on the planet, building audiences everywhere and establishing himself at the forefront of digital content.  After a long stint as the boss at TechRadar, Patrick has now moved on to a role with Apple, where he is the Managing Editor for the App Store in the UK.