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Regional daily launches online election ‘chatbot’ service

A regional daily has launched an online ‘chatbot’ tool to help answer voters’ questions ahead of the General election.

The Manchester Evening News has announced the launch of ‘Ask Emmeline’, which will answer questions for readers about the 2015 General Election in their constituency, inform them who the candidates are this time around and also share some general information about the voting process.

Chatbots are computer programmes which are designed to simulate human interactions and act as convincing conversational partners.

The MEN’s chatbot, which is accessible on the Facebook messenger app, is named ‘Emmeline’ after the Manchester-born suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst.

Ask emmeline

Paul Gallagher, from the Manchester Evening News, said: “We know that journalists on regional newspapers and websites play a vital role in our democracy by informing readers about their local constituencies and election candidates.

“It has been fascinating to look how we can reach this audience via a chatbot and it’s particularly encouraging to see that Emmeline has already succeeded in helping people find out how they can register to vote on 8 June.”

The tool has been created in conjunction with Autosermo, a company which specialises in developing chatbots.

Steven Booth from Autosermo said: “I firmly believe that chatbots and automated messaging will define the future of digital content consumption and revolutionise customer communication with businesses.

“In this case, it’s especially rewarding to know that we’re driving registrations to vote, enhancing the democratic experience and providing a social good.”