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Is 'friend-raising' the future of politics?

Politically-inclined social-networking startup Votizen is attracting big-name donors — and a lot of attention

Sean Parker — the founder of Napster, and an early investor in Facebook and Spotify — leads a group of investors that is pouring money into a new project that's all about politics. The startup, Votizen, is not shy about its ambitions: It hopes to use social-networking to change how our democracy works. Here's what you should know:

How does Votizen work? Utilizing a national database of 200 million voting records, Votizen allows its 600,000-plus users to find out if their friends on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are registered voters. Once they've connected, users can spread campaign material, mobilize grassroots action on specific issues, or simply hang out with those of a similar ideological bent.

How is that different from Facebook? Votizen wants to be more than just the "Facebook for politics," Votizen co-founder David Binetti tells Talking Points Memo. "Half a million people run for office of one form or another in this country, but there's no place where that data is collected or maintained — yet." Binetti says he envisions a forum where users can create networks around any election, from the White House down to your local school board. The investors certainly see room for growth, with Parker telling All Things D that the political industry "is a bit behind the rest of the economy in embracing these new technologies."

What does Votizen hope to achieve?One goal is to reduce the influence of money in elections. "Rich people and lobbyists get in the way," Binetti tells All Things D. "We're disrupting the currency of politics with 'friend-raising' over fundraising." In the future, Binetti believes that activists and politicians will be forced to reach out to networks on Votizen to influence campaigns, rather than just pouring money into advertising.

Sources: All Things D, Talking Points Memo, TechCrunch

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