As the election for next Prime Minister in the UK approaches, Facebook and YouTube have announced that they will be sponsoring the first ever British Digital Debate. British Facebook and YouTube users are invited to ask text of video questions of the candidates from each of Britain’s three major political parties via YouTube and Facebook. Users can vote on the questions they like best, and candidates Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg will record video responses to the top questions. Videos will appear on both YouTube and Facebook about ten days before the election on May 6.
Richard Allen, Director of Policy at Facebook, spoke about the Digital Debate saying, “By allowing voters to cross-examine their leaders, these digital debates will put the voters firmly in charge.” Traditional debates have carefully chosen questions, predetermined by what the debate organizers think the people want to hear. Often many important issues are left out. By allowing voters to ask questions of the candidates and vote for the questions they want to hear answered most a whole new level of communication between candidates and constituents is achieved.
Peter Barron, Director of Communications at Google, YouTube’s owner, added, “Although the televised debates will be a historic first, we feel that there is an opportunity for a different type of platform that allows voters to be in charge of the questions.” So far 170 questions have been asked on YouTube and 1,431 have been asked on Facebook.
This is not the first time that YouTube has been a part of political elections. In 2007 the United States televised both Democratic and Republican YouTube debates in the primaries, where candidates fielded video questions asked by YouTube users. Israel also held a televised YouTube debate during its 2009 election for Prime Minister, showing a definite trend towards the use of social media in political debates. However, the UK Digital Debate will be the first political debate to take place entirely in the digital arena with questions being submitted, voted on and responded to on Facebook and YouTube.
What do you think of the idea of a Digital Debate? Do you think this new trend could completely replace traditional televised debates in upcoming elections around the world?
Image found via Telegraph