Our Tinder profiles are sacred vaults of private and sometimes lascivious conversations. But, scores of young people did something many of us would deem unthinkable they handed over their Tinder profiles to a chatbot during the UK general election in order to encourage young people to vote tactically for Labour in swing constituencies.
The Tinder chatbot is the brainchild of an independent women-led team comprised of writer and campaigner Yara Rodrigues Fowler, 24, and law student Charlotte Goodman, 25. The pair wanted to find a way of talking to young people in swing constituencies about policies that would interest them.
Goodman conducted a constituency analysis where the youth vote would make a difference to the final result. She then enlisted the help of software engineers Erika Pheby, 23, and Kyle Buttner, 25, who set about building the software required. The bot targeted 18-25 year olds in marginal constituencies where the youth vote could swing it, and encouraged young people to vote tactically.
So, how exactly did the bot work?
21-year-old student Jeremy Law was one of over 150 people to lend their Tinder profiles to the bot. In order to make the bot work, he changed his discovery settings in the app to males and females between the ages of 18 and 25. He then followed a set of instructions to hand over his profile for two hours. The bot changed his location to a marginal seat somewhere in the UK, and it sent an automated message to matches asking if they were voting, and who they were voting for?
Engaging with the electorate
The responses, scripted by Rodrigues Fowler, focused on key topics that would interest younger voters; things like affordable housing and the minimum wage. On 8 June, the bot messaged all matches a link to their nearest polling stations. Those who lent their profiles didn’t have to stay silent while the conversations were going on, however. The bot allowed people to join in the chat if they felt compelled to.
Rodrigues Fowler estimates that between 10 and 20 thousand messages were sent to people in marginal constituencies, the responses to which were largely positive. “A couple of people got dates out of it,” says Fowler. “One person also contacted us to say their mental and physical health had prevented them from going out and canvassing and this was a really great way for them to make a difference.” She believes that the directness or Tinder and people’s excitement to receive messages from matches made this a very effective way to engage with the electorate.
The bot sent out around 1,000 messages to Tinder users in Dudley North, one of the key swing constituencies identified by the team. Dudley North was held by Labour, and Rodrigues Fowler says the team is particularly excited to have played a part in campaigning there.
“Making a Tinder bot to get young people to vote progressively was an exciting technical challenge and felt like it would have a real, serious impact in a way that most tech projects dont,” says Buttner.
As for the people who lent their profile, this was an way to directly reach peers and hopefully get them voting. “I basically did it because I knew how key youth turnout would be in Labour gaining seats and I wanted to do everything I could to encourage participation and potentially even sway a few people who were undecided,” says Law.
Who knew that Tinder would play such an important role in the general election?
More From this publisher : HERE