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Just say no to political “copy/paste” shares on Facebook

The perils of Facebook requests to “Please copy/paste and share widely”, especially when the request is political; includes case study of request to call Congress.

The latest “Please copy/paste and share widely” meme spreading like wildfire on Facebook this weekend asks readers to call Congress and say “vote no” on a list of 10 bills.

They all sound awful (just looking at the titles).

FB political share
Screen capture of Facebook share request

But … how many of these House measures have actually been booked for a hearing in a committee? How many have more than a handful of co-sponsors? How many are being proposed by a congressman who is actually ON the relevant committee?

And have any already been voted out of the House? [Hint: yes. Calling about that one makes you look woefully uninformed and devalues any future feedback.]

There were 12,063 measures introduced in the House and Senate (some were resolutions) in the most recent session of Congress (2015-17). Only 661 bills came up for a vote in one of the chambers over that two-year period. Of those, only 329 became law (passed both chambers, signed by the President or veto overridden).

The same percentage (3%) passed in the 94th Congress (1975-77) but more than twice as many measures were introduced 40 years ago.

Do the math: it does not make sense to oppose a bill simply because someone introduced it.

Exception: is the prime sponsor from your state’s delegation and the same party as your representative? If yes, and this is important to you, ask that your rep not sign on as a co-sponsor.

How to effectively contact your elected representatives

It’s best, when bills are at this stage, to talk to your Representative about your concerns about the environment or health care or <insert your hot button issue>. Focus. Focus. Focus.

Unless your Rep is on a committee. Then it’s appropriate to ask them to vote no should a bill come to a committee vote.

Congressional staff are smart.

They know when you’re responding to a chain mail (or its current Facebook equivalent – the anonymous copy&paste).

Also, I recommend that you call or write the local office. Your written missive will be read more quickly (because of scale at the Congressional post office and security measures). You are going to talk to a staff person, anyway, so call locally and bypass the scale challenge affecting the Congressional switchboard (busy signals).

The local office is the front-line for interacting with constituents. To ensure that you’ll speak to a staffer, call during business hours. Please be patient; you’re speaking with a front-line customer service person.

Relative to your two Senators (who represent the entire state), members of the House of Representatives have smaller budgets and staff. Both have interns. (I was a Senate intern, back in the day, and a lobbyist once I graduated.)

If you care deeply about an issue, make an appointment with the local office and organize several people to meet and share specific stories/concerns.

Why those copy&paste requests are a bad idea

Please don’t share the anonymous-and-undated copy&paste, specifically when it is a political call to action, as a matter of principle. This is the modern equivalent of chain email.

  • There is no provenance (which means, credibility is MIA)
  • They are, in my experience, never dated. I’ve seen month-old (and, thus, expired) calls-to-action shared this way

Any political call to action made by a legitimate organization will have been a public post. Public posts are shareable, even if you saw the post shared by a friend with a “friends only” setting. Share the original, not your friend’s posting.

Facebook also penalizes frequently repeated content (the same image uploaded and shared over-and-over for example) per a 2014 announcement.

But the issue is important to me!

Great! You care about the issue and want to communicate that to your elected representatives. Yeah!

I have only one ask: if the issue is important to you, please take a moment to research the call-to-action. (This is a best practice before any share, actually, but I’m concerned primarily with political ones.)

Then tell us where where you found the information; date it; give us links. Provide footprints that everyone (even if the post is friends-only) can see. Add something to the original request to it to make it your own.

In other words, think slowly (thank you, Daniel Kahneman), rather than knee-jerk react. That’s what these posts are designed to do — trigger a knee-jerk, quick (also known as “thought-less”) emotional response.

That’s right: I’m asking you to invest some of your own time.


That list of 10 House measures

The copy&paste request making the rounds this weekend did not even include a link to the bills. In my original Facebook post, I linked to each measure as a comment. I’ve put them in chronological order here. Note that bill titles often bear only a limited resemblance to the actual content of the bill. See the Senate one listed as an example.

1. HJR 69 Repeal Rule Protecting Wildlife

PASSED THE HOUSE on 2/17 (225 – 193)
IN THE SENATE, received 2/17

2. HR 83 Mobilizing Against Sanctuary Cities Bill

Prime sponsor, Rep. Barletta, Lou [R-PA-11]
Only nine (9) co-sponsors
01/23/2017 Referred to the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security

3. HR 147 Criminalizing Abortion (“Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act”)

Prime sponsor, Rep. Franks, Trent [R-AZ-8]
**59 cosponsors*
01/23/2017 Referred to the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice

4. HR 354 Defund Planned Parenthood of 2017

Prime sponsor, Rep. Black, Diane [R-TN-6]
** 136 co-sponsors **
01/25/2017 Referred to the Subcommittee on Health.

Here’s the companion bill in the Senate

S.241 – Protect Funding for Women’s Health Care Act
(yes that’s really its name)
Prime sponsor, Sen. Ernst, Joni [R-IA]
**26 co-sponsors** (that’s a lot)

Here’s the bill from the prior session

She introduced the same bill in 2015-16

5. HR 370 Repeal Affordable Care Act (the FB “title”)

“To repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and health care-related provisions in the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010” ( title)
There is more than one of these ACA repeal bills – this is NOT the primary one

Prime sponsor, Rep. Flores, Bill [R-TX-17]
** ZERO co-sponsors **
02/10/2017 Referred to the Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs.

6. HR 610 Vouchers for Public Education

[also repeals a rule relating to nutrition standards]
Prime sponsor, Rep. King, Steve [R-IA-4]
** Three (3) co-sponsors **
01/23/2017 Referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

7. HR 785 National Right to Work

Prime sponsor, Rep. King, Steve [R-IA-4]
** 15 co-sponsors **
02/01/2017 Referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce

8. HR 808 Sanctions against Iran (FB title)

Iran Nonnuclear Sanctions Act of 2017 ( title)
Prime sponsor, Rep. Roskam, Peter J. [R-IL-6]
** Four (4) co-sponsors **
02/01/2017 Referred to House Oversight and Government Reform

9. HR 861 Terminate the Environmental Protection Agency

Prime sponsor, Rep. Gaetz, Matt [R-FL-1]
** Three (3) co-sponsors **
02/10/2017 Referred to the Subcommittee on Environment.

10. HR 899 Terminate the Department of Education

Prime sponsor, Rep. Massie, Thomas [R-KY-4]
** Seven (7) co-sponsors **
02/07/2017 Referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.


Nine of these 10 measures were featured in a dodgy left-leaning website, which might have provided the impetus for the post.


By Kathy E. Gill

Digital evangelist, speaker, writer, educator. Transplanted Southerner; teach newbies to ride motorcycles! @kegill

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