Discover more from Anchor Change with Katie Harbath
2022 Year in Review
The top 11 themes I’m taking from the last 12 months and your favorite newsletters from the past year
Hello from cold, snowy, and about-to-be very windy Wisconsin. I drove home from DC on Sunday, so I beat out the blizzard and now just get to hunker down with a fire, warm blanket, reading, and lots of cooking. Tonight I’m making the Serious Eats bolognese for my mom and dad, and tomorrow I need to put together the Christmas Family Feud game that I’ll be hosting on Christmas Day.
Sitting in their sunroom watching the snow slowly fall with my parent’s dog Minnie on my lap is the perfect environment to reflect on the year that was. And oh, was it a year.
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But, before we get to that two quick things.
First, I have an op-ed in CNN Opinion about the impossible tradeoffs that face social media companies around content moderation. This came together quickly over the weekend, and I’m excited it happened.
Second, about 60 of you have graciously given me feedback on this newsletter and what you’d like to see in 2023. Thank you! If you are willing to do so, you can take this quick survey here.
Back to the year in review.
Legacy Platforms Struggle - There’s no question that from Facebook to Instagram to Twitter and other legacy platforms have struggled this year. It has been a lot from the economy to the rise of TikTok, change in online advertising, regulatory pressure, change in leadership, and the war in Ukraine. I could write a newsletter just breaking down all of those, but needless to say, the platforms we knew in January this year look very different 12 months later. And expect them to continue to change and adapt.
Rise of Newer Platforms - TikTok, Twitch, Discord, Mastodon, Post.News, Telegram, Rumble, Truth Social, and many other platforms grew this year. Some are very new, and some have been around for a bit longer, but people are now using many different platforms to share and consume content. More people under 30 are getting their news from TikTok (a big story in and of itself this year, but I think it’ll be even bigger next year, so I’m saving it for my 2023 look ahead). Many questions about the trust and safety measures these platforms are or aren’t putting in place—also a lot of questions about the ability of people to monitor what is happening on these platforms.
Collaborations - Whether it was the impressive group that the Brazil election authority - the TSE - put together for their election or the various ones done for the U.S. midterms, such as the Election Integrity Partnership, part of the reason that these elections did not go off the rails as much as we all worried they would is because of the hard work by a lot of organizations to ensure they didn’t. My biggest fear is we’ll think we have solved the problem and don’t need to do more of this going into 2023 and 2024, when I think we need to double down.
Criticism/focus on government relationships with platforms - After 2016, the Obama administration got a lot of criticism for how it handled intelligence that Russia might be trying to interfere in the election. The companies and the government started collaborating more to ensure that didn't happen again. However, over this year, questions have emerged about whether the government has gone too far in what they ask tech companies to do - particularly concerning matters inside the US versus foreign adversaries. More on this in the future because this will be a big topic next year.
The government regulation that was … and wasn’t - While the U.S. Federal government hasn’t done much yet on tech regulation, that didn’t stop Europe and the states (looking at you Florida and Texas) from passing various pieces of regulation against tech. Turkey passed a problematic social media law, Indonesia started using new methods to enforce its laws, and India announced it was setting up grievance committees to oversee content moderation decisions of social media firms. We’re heading towards many conflicting rules worldwide that will need reconciliation in the years to come.
Prebunking - Whether it was warning people about the narratives that Russia might try to spread around the invasion of Ukraine or preparing people for various narratives in the midterms - this sort of prebunking is a good tool to deploy in the fight against disinformation.
Content Creators - As more platforms ban or severely curtail the options for political advertisers, I’m seeing two trends continue to emerge. The first is the role of content creators. We first saw paid advertisers being used in earnest during Mike Bloomberg’s short campaign for president in 2020. This year we saw the Biden administration bring in TikTok influencers to brief them on administration goals, Wired’s cover story in July was about an ad-tech start-up who finds influencers for issue campaigns, and the potential Biden campaign is already planning a big influencer strategy. There’s a reason all the platforms are courting creators - they need their content to attract users. When you combine that with politics and the fact that there’s very little transparency into these relationships, this is an area ripe for confusion in the coming years.
Social to streaming - I’ve been talking about this a lot, but it’s worth repeating. It’s a big deal how we’re starting to see a shift in ad dollars from social media platforms to streaming. This, plus the rise of using influencers or asking supporters to push content to friends via messaging services (another thing the Biden campaign is looking at) and digital campaigning in 2024, will look very different than what we’re used to. And we need more transparency into all of it. (I know I’m a broken record, but I will keep saying it every chance I get.)
Newsfeed Changes - In April’s earnings call, Mark announced how Facebook and Instagram would start showing people more content on topics they are interested in even if they don’t follow the account. He called it the “discovery engine.” It’s basically what TikTok’s algorithm is. Twitter announced they’d be showing people more recommended content too. The more the platforms control what unconnected content you see, the more questions/pressure they might get about what they do or don’t choose to show you. Republicans are already focusing on this—another topic for the 2023 look ahead.
The rise of AI: I agree with Ben Thompson and others that one of the biggest stories this year is the advancements in AI. Whether it was DALL-E (the tool that allows you to create your images) or ChatGPT from OpenAI, this is the future. So many interesting questions remain about this technology, from copyright law to content moderation. I can’t wait.
Year of Trust and Safety - I saved my favorite for last. While I’m biased on this topic, I have seen the field of trust and safety start to blossom outside of the platforms this year. More professionals in this field are starting to speak out and share their knowledge and expertise. We had the first TrustCon and Trust and Safety conferences. Knight’s Informed conference was one of the best I’ve been to in a long time. Collaborations are happening; these workers are influencing legislation, they’re helping regulators, and they are helping the next generation of platforms.
To that end, I decided to finally try ChatGPT for the first time (the only reason I hadn’t before was I hadn’t had the time yet). I asked it to write an ode to trust and safety workers in tech. This is what it came back with. I like it:
Ode to Trust and Safety Workers in Tech
To the unsung heroes of the tech world,
Trust and Safety workers, we sing this ode
Your tireless efforts keep our online world
A safe and trusted place to go
You work behind the scenes, unseen
But your impact is profound and deep
You help to keep the internet a place
Where people can feel secure and sleep
You work to protect the vulnerable
And to keep the bad actors at bay
You help to keep the online community
A place where everyone can play
So here's to you, Trust and Safety workers
We salute you, and your noble cause
Thank you for all that you do
To keep our tech world free from flaws
You are the guardians of the online realm
And we are grateful for your tireless work
You are the unsung heroes of the tech world
And we salute you with this ode and smile*.
* I changed the last word from smirk to smile because it felt better though that means it doesn’t rhyme :)
Thank you so much for reading and being a subscriber. I so appreciate it. If you are interested, these are the top 10 pieces from this year that were read the most:
July 16: How I Mapped Out My Post FB Journey
September 23: Reclaim the Fairy Tale
August 26: Zuck on Joe Rogan
October 2: A New Era for Trust and Safety
October 30: Feeling the Pivot
September 17: A Year Later - Where Are We?
October 22: Platforms & Elections: Are They Doing Enough?
November 9: Tech Stories I'm Watching Post Election Day
If you have ideas about what I should do in the new year, please don’t forget to fill out my survey - it’s fast, I promise.
I haven’t decided if I will write my 2023 look ahead next week or after New Year’s. I’m going to just to wait and see how I’m feeling. If you don’t see something next week, that’s why.
I hope you all have very happy holidays and a happy new year.
What I’m Reading
Washington Post: Opinion | How the algorithm tipped the balance in Ukraine
Washington Post: Tech companies may have to cough up research data under this bill
New York Times: How TikTok Became a Diplomatic Crisis
Washington Post: The key moments that define Elon Musk’s time leading Twitter
Economist: Elon Musk’s $44bn education on free speech
Honestly with Bari Weiss: Ro Khanna on Twitter, Free Speech, and the Future of the Left on Spotify
DFR Lab: 2022 at the DFRLab: a year in review
Adimpact: 2022 Cycle In Review
Trusted Future: 2022: The Year of Generative AI
Twitter Support: Additional icons that provide context for accounts on Twitter
Citris Policy Lab: Tech Policy Fellowship
Medely: Trust and Safety Specialist
Open_Future: Fellowship 2023
Oversight Board: Global Engagement Officer (Fixed Term)
Freedom House: Jobs
Grammarly: Openings | Grammarly Careers
Graphika: Staff Engineer
Graphika: Editor & Insights Manager
Medtronic: Jobs in November, 2022 (Hiring Now!)
Ballotpedia: Director of External Relations (Remote)
Global Cyber Alliance: Careers at GCA. Join Our Team.
Institute for Rebooting Social Media: Call for 2023-2024 RSM Visiting Scholars
Koch Industries: Communications Manager
No Labels: Sr. Fundraiser
National Alliance of Forest Owners: Director for Communications
Woodberry Associates: Senior Associate, Advocacy Management
Duco offers paid project-based gigs to policy, security, and trust & safety professionals. Duco’s mission is to empower leading companies to operate safely, securely, and responsibly by mobilizing the world’s leading experts to help solve complex challenges. Duco HQ works with companies to scope projects, then matches leading policy, security, and trust & safety experts with paid-project work. Projects include reports, executive briefings, risk assessments, strategic advising, on-platform or cross-platform content review/labeling, etc. You can sign up with Duco here, and reach out to Sofi Arimany at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions.
Center for Humane Technology: Chief of Staff
Center for Humane Technology: Development Director
Note: No calendar this week as the email was too long