Facebook has emerged as a political player in the state Capitol – and not just because lawmakers are using the site to make “friends.”
As we’ve told you before, businesses aren’t the only entities using outlets like Twitter and Facebook to their advantage. We’ve explained how social media is embraced by politicians to reach out to their constituents; and now, it seems that state capitols are actually allowing these social media outlets to help shape public policy. One example is when Facebook scored a major victory last month, when it persuaded legislators to shoot down a bill that would have made more user information private on social networking websites.
Although CA Senate Bill 242 was the first to reveal that Facebook had arrived on the state’s political playing field, it seems this is only the beginning. Over the past year, Facebook has spent more than $102,000 on lobbying in California and made its first contributions to political campaigns in the state. How is it lobbying? By sending representatives to take lawmakers out for lunch in Sacramento and hosting them at the company’s Palo Alto headquarters.
In fact, Facebook now has a public policy division. Speaking to , associate manager of said department Corey Owens said of the recent Sacramento social media lobbying activity, “We’re excited about having a presence in Sacramento. It’s still fairly new for us, but California is our home and we want to be supportive and responsive to legislators who are interested in our issues.”
The process began last year, when Facebook first hired a Sacramento lobbyist. Records show the company has made only two campaign contributions in California: $10,000 to the TechNet political action committee and $5,000 to oppose last year’s Proposition 24, which would have rolled back tax breaks for businesses. The lobbying activities of the social media giant primarily involve bills concerning issues like Internet privacy, commuter benefits and the use of social media by registered sex offenders.
Of the campaign contribution activity, Owens said, “Political giving is a way to develop relationships with policymakers outside the context of specific legislation. So I think it will remain a part of our political strategy, but we’re always more interested in having conversations with individuals than anything.” Conversations – or lobbying? Either way, Facebook is becoming a player on the state lawmaking scene, with social media in Sacramento becoming more important than ever.