Dig Baton Rouge

TAKING FLIGHT

By Nick BeJeaux

After a year of development tweaks and jumping through financial hoops, the Freagle project is finally ready for launch.

Just in time for election season, Freagle is a non-partisan social platform designed to streamline political engagement between constituents and the electorate by providing direct communication, unbiased political intelligence, and research in real-time.

Developed right here in Baton Rouge at the Louisiana Tech Park, Freagle was initially planned to be released in 2014. But as with all start-ups, money became an issue very quickly. That all changed after Freagle was accepted into an exclusive global incubator program called Hidden Founders.

“Their whole concept is basically to disrupt the traditional consulting model, which is basically what kept me from building Freagle,” Papazoglakis said. “I couldn’t raise money because I didn’t have a platform. I couldn’t hire technical people because I didn’t have money – I had an idea, but no way to build it.”

Papazoglakis turned to crowdsourcing as a way to get her project off the ground, but that did not work as well as she had hoped despite the hype surrounding the project. After raising a little bit of the money she needed, Papazoglakis lined up a long shot and applied for the HF program, which accepts only seven applications at a time out of the hundreds they receive from across the globe. “I thought it was the longest shot ever, but it happened!” she said.

In an age of internet pundits and media saturation, what is opinion and what is fact has become blurred. Freagle has is the answer to that cultural shift, allowing for voters, constituents, and candidates to interact with each other in a direct, un-biased way other platforms simply cannot offer.

“Basically, it is a political social network with two profile types: voters/constituents and candidates,” said Niki Papazoglakis, Freagle’s CEO, Louisiana politics aficionado and a gubernatorial candidate from the 2011 race. “You don’t have to be a registered voter to use [the platform], but you do have to be 18. That is necessary for verification, because there are very strict laws about a child’s personal information.”

As anyone with a Twitter handle or Facebook page can tell you, posting about politics can be sticky – to put it mildly. You may mean well, but internet trolls get their kicks from stirring up drama. Only verified accounts – using actual names – will be able to interact with other Freagle users on the platform. However, there is a “read-only” version for kids or people who wish to remain anonymous. Also, by verifying your account, Freagle will use your address to automatically connect you with the electorate in charge of governing you and your neighbors.

At launch on September 8, Freagle provides only data and services relevant to Louisiana’s electorates, like campaign finance reports, candidate filings (who is running), and verified user-generated data. Candidates will have the ability to use tools like opinion polls and the Election Forum, which will allow users to compare candidates running in a race side by side, and even interact with them directly.

“It was originally going to be a place just for candidate comparisons; it’s still that, but we’ve added some features to that since February,” said Papazoglakis. “In addition to finding out who is in the race, if the candidates have verified accounts, you can pose your questions to them all on that election’s page much like you would when posting comments on a Facebook wall.”

The biggest advantage of a platform like Freagle, Papazoglakis says, is that it has been designed from the ground up to make democracy accessible to all.

“When you sign on, you don’t have to know what district you reside in, who’s running or the important issues,” she said. “When it creates a profile, it fills in most of that automatically and asks you what issues you care about. Your feed is unique to you. Like, for example, if education is not important to me, I’m not going to be swamped by information about education. When you post, you can tag an issue – like tagging a friend on Facebook. If I care about guns, I can not only go compare each candidate’s stand on guns side by side, I can also filter through my tags and see what other voters are saying.”

Papazoglakis says that even in it’s beta mode, a good chunk of the Louisiana legislature

and its executive candidates have already laid their claims in Freagle. “We’ve actually been operating in a beta mode and already we have about 50 candidates with accounts signed up,” she said. “Not all of them have published their profiles just yet, but all of the Gubernatorial candidates have accounts – Scott Angelle and David Vitter have already published theirs. I was just in communication with John Bel Edwards’ team and they’re in the process of getting theirs up. I’m not sure where Jay Dardenne stands, though he was the first one to commit.”

 

To get your Freagle account set up, visit www.freagle.com.

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