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Election 2020: Technology’s Role in Administering Democratic Elections
Election 2020: Social Media and Political Polarization
Election 2020: Content Moderation and Accountability
AS WE APPROACH THE 2020 ELECTION IN THE UNITED STATES, content moderation on social media platforms is taking center stage. From speech issues on Facebook and Twitter to YouTube videos and TikTok brigands, the current election season is being reshaped by curation concerns about what’s allowed online, what’s not, upranking and downranking, and who’s deciding.
THE EMERGENCE OF A DIGITAL SPHERE where public debate takes place raises profound questions about the connection between online information and polarization, echo chambers, and filter bubbles. Does the information ecosystem created by social media companies support the conditions necessary for a healthy democracy? Is it different from other media? These are particularly urgent questions as the United States approaches a contentious 2020 election during the COVID-19 pandemic.
THE 2020 ELECTION IN THE UNITED STATES will take place on November 3 in the midst of a global pandemic, economic downturn, social unrest, political polarization, and a sudden shift in the balance of power in the U.S Supreme Court. On top of these issues, the technological layer impacting the public debate, as well as the electoral process itself, may well determine the election outcome.
Voluntary physical distancing is essential for preventing the spread of COVID-19. We assessed the role of political partisanship in individuals’ compliance with physical distancing recommendations of political leaders using data on mobility from a sample of mobile phones in 3,100 counties in the United States during March 2020, county-level partisan preferences, information about the political affiliation of state governors, and the timing of their communications about COVID-19 prevention.
Over the past two decades, U.S. and Chinese technological trajectories have been closely linked. Internet protocols, hardware design and manufacturing, software development and deployment, and services and standards have to varying degrees been crossborder phenomena, with China and the United States two of the world’s most consequential and integrated countries. The last few years, however, have seen a rise in mutual suspicion and moves—both direct and indirect—to unwind this extraordinary level of technological interdependence.
Concluding Chapter of Social Media and Democracy: The State of the Field and Prospects for Reform (Cambridge Press, forthcoming September 2020)
On April 2, 2020 Twitter announced the takedown of a collection of data sets attributed to state influence operations in several countries. One of those datasets was attributed to actors within Egypt – specifically, accounts linked to the El Fagr newspaper. El Fagr has previously been named in coordinated inauthentic activity takedowns on Facebook and Instagram, which took down a network related to their pro-Egyptian government activity in October 2019.
The run-up to the 2016 U.S. presidential election illustrated how vulnerable our most venerated journalistic outlets are to a new kind of information warfare. Reporters are a targeted adversary of foreign and domestic actors who want to harm our democracy. And to cope with this threat, especially in an election year, news organizations need to prepare for another wave of false, misleading, and hacked information. Often, the information will be newsworthy.
Despite pressure from President Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr, Apple continues to stand its ground and refuses to re-engineer iPhones so law enforcement can unlock the devices. Apple has maintained that it has done everything required by law and that creating a "backdoor" would undermine cybersecurity and privacy for iPhone users everywhere.
Apple is right to stand firm in its position that building a "backdoor" could put user data at risk.
The Program on Democracy and the Internet runs the work of the Kofi Annan Commission on Elections and Democracy in the Digital Age which will produce guidelines to support democracies, particularly those of the global south.