Browser extension's creators say it'll boost civic engagement via social media

Aidan McCarty, left, and Liam McCarty (ePluribus)

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As government IT leaders search for ways to connect more directly with the populations they serve, a Stanford University-based startup announced Tuesday the launch of a new browser extension that turns transforms social media into a direct line to political officials.

The tool, called ePluribus, allows users to turn their comments on Facebook, Twitter or news websites into messages that can be sent to their elected representatives and easily shared online. Developed by brothers Aidan and Liam McCarty, the tool is billed as a means to “fight bots and political meddling” and “give Americans their voices back.”

The McCartys told StateScoop they hope the app will cut through social media’s echo chamber and lend websites like Twitter and Facebook a sense of legitimacy that could allow its users to influence policy.

Starting in spring, the extension’s users will be able to validate their identities by registering with the company by physical mail. The McCartys admitted it’s a slower method of authentication, but also the most legitimate.

“Representatives are far more likely to pay attention when they know for sure that the message is from someone in their district,” Aidan McCarty said in a press release. “Using ePluribus to send messages is like having a blue checkmark on Twitter; it’s a signal that you are real and that you matter.”

Facebook’s ability to be manipulated for political purposes has become central to several national issues in recent years, including bot-fueled campaigns against the Federal Communications Commissions’ net neutrality policy and Russian campaigns to stratify voters leading into the 2016 presidential election.

The company has received about $900,000 in funding from investors based in Silicon Valley and Wisconsin, where the McCarty brothers grew up.

The ePluribus extension is currently available for Chrome; a mobile app is slated for release later this year.

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civic engagement, ePluribus, Social Media
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