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BBC Politics Election bot helps voters understand politics in their local area

June 08, 2017

BBC POLITICS ELECTION BOT DEMYSTIFIES THE POLITICAL PROCESS FOR NEW VOTERS - AND HELPS VOTERS UNDERSTAND HOW LOCAL POLITICS WORKS IN THEIR AREA.

BBC Election Bot helps new voters fact-check political promises, learn the political makeup of their local area, and personalise their journey from novice to political geek.

Date: 02.06.2017     

Category: BBC News

BBC News has announced Election Bot, a Facebook Messenger Bot that distills the BBC’s entire range of election reporting into a single, personalised service. The Bot lets users take a deep dive into the political makeup of their local constituency. It also lets users personalise their own journey through "explainers” that detail why and how elections are called, fact checking of contentious political promises, and weekly or “as they happen” analyses of key election moments.

The bot was built for the BBC by UK bot-tech agency, The Bot Platform, who worked previously with the BBC on its “Brexit Bot”. Mark Frankel, Social Media Editor for BBC News says, "consumers looking for information about the election do not always want breaking news. Instead, they want the background of an issue that affects them or they want to check whether political promises made around an issue are reliable.”

Frankel adds, "There’s a lot of desire from new voters to make sense of today’s politics, but that’s a very broad, sometimes very aggressive space. It’s not always obvious to the uninitiated to know where to start. That's why Election Bot provides many different ways into politics, as a way to attract the attention of different kinds of users”.

At its broadest, Election Bot addresses its users as two distinct groups. Election rookies can pick and choose from explanatory material, filling in gaps in their knowledge by personalising a journey through party manifestos, biography, high-level analysis and short articles that explain how elections work, and why this election was called. Political geeks, meanwhile, are offered a treasure trove of in depth material, including a trip through the BBC’s archive of historic and recent election video - including star turns by Colin Frith, John Cleese, grime star JME, and a young Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage.

All users also have access to detailed information about their local constituency, and the opportunity to be notified, on election night, who their new MP will be once their local area has been called.

Before election night, says Frankel, "Users who subscribe to updates will receive a link via Messenger to the most important updates across each day - and sometimes two or more updates on heavy news days," says Frankel. “But after experimentation, we’ve found that the most-read updates aren't breaking news - rather, it’s commentary like ‘why 7.5m people can’t vote for a woman in this election’. Or our Reality Check service, which debunks the more provocative claims made by politicians on the election trail”.

Syd Lawrence, CEO of the Bot Platform, adds, “an election is an interesting challenge for a bot. It's a big, knotty topic but that's where bots can excel - they encourage the user to ask questions, let the user absorb information at their own pace, and follow their own path to learn. Bots also combine video and images with a need for relatively concise text, which means they're an effective way to communicate complex topics to anyone, not only native English speakers".

Election Bot is now available at https://m.me/bbcpolitics.

BBC News

       Launch and editorial team: Mark Frankel, Kate Gartland, Nick Sutton, Dino Sofos

       The Bot Platform: Grant Heinrich, Syd Lawrence

Notes to Editors

The Bot Platform is the leading UK bot-tech company. It is one of Facebook's key partners in Europe for Messenger, Bots, and Facebook's new Workplace product for corporates. Alongside BBC News, The Bot Platform clients include Johnson and Johnson, Sony, AVFC and Hendricks Gin, and its bots have processed more than 40m messages for clients. 

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