Snapchat gets political: Filter urges UK users to register to vote

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Story highlights

  • The new filter reminds users to register to vote by May 22
  • Young people are less likely to be registered and less likely to vote than older people
  • Facebook and Instagram are also reaching out to young voters

London (CNN)Snapchat has launched a new filter in the UK reminding people to register to vote in the general election on June 8.

"Find your voice!" says a command, "Register to vote by 22nd May!"
    The feature on the social media app will be available for 48 hours for UK users. The aim is to reach young voters, who are statistically much less likely to be registered than older voters and less likely to turn out on polling day.
    The bespoke filter is the result of a collaboration between Snapchat and the UK Electoral Commission, which runs campaigns before every major poll to encourage voter registration.
    The new Snapchat filter encourages UK users to register to vote in the general election.
    "This is a new way of engaging young voters," an Electoral Commission spokesperson told CNN. "We haven't done this before. We're thinking about where our audiences are and how we can engage with them.
    "Young people might not be reading newspapers or watching the news," she said. "But they are on Snapchat.
    "Some might not know the deadline is coming up or they might assume they're already registered."
    Bite the Ballot, which tries to empower young citizens to be more involved in politics, approves of the initiative.
    "This shouldn't be seen as just a gimmick," said the organization's Josh Dell. "It's a very effective way of making people aware of the need to get registered.
    "The impact of this can only be positive."
    Chelsea Dalby, 23, one Snapchat user from Sunderland in northeast England, has more mixed feelings.
    "I don't think it would encourage people to vote but it's probably going to make people more aware of the election," she said.
    Another user, Emily Pentland, 23, who lives in Durham, also thinks the filter will raise awareness although education is needed to engage young people with politics.
    "I think politics awareness should be encouraged in schools from a young age," she said, "because a lot of people our age don't really understand politics and the impact it will have on our future."
    The latest available Electoral Commission data (from December 2015) shows that 34% of 18 to 24-year-olds are not registered to vote, compared with just 4% of over-65s.
    Both the EU referendum in June 2016 and the Prime Minister's announcement of a snap election a few weeks ago generated big spikes in registrations, particularly among young people.
    But many may still be missing from the register.
    "Anyone who is eligible to vote at the General Election should be able to take part," said Craig Westwood, Director of Communications at the Electoral Commision, in a statement.
    "However, if you're not registered to vote by the deadline of 22 May, then you won't be able to have your say. We're urging anyone not yet registered to do so as soon as possible."
    The Commission is also working with other social media platforms to encourage people to get signed up.
    Earlier this month, posts reminding people to register appeared in the Facebook newsfeeds of UK users. Registration reminders will also appear on Instagram in the days before the deadline.