I don’t know about you all but these weeks since Thanksgiving have been a real slog. I’m very much ready for a two-week break for Christmas and New Year. I’ll be heading home to Wisconsin on Monday where they are already under a blanket of snow. No bitter cold wind chills this year to my knowledge, but maybe I already jinxed it.
For this week’s newsletter, I thought I’d share some of the things that I’m keeping an eye on next year. I want to do a 2021 wrap-up, but I don’t have my thoughts fully formed on that yet so I’ll share that in the last newsletter of the year.
Many people are hoping for a quiet 2022, but I’m sorry to say I don’t think that’s going to happen. There are a bunch of things that I think people have been avoiding talking about that we’ll have to face as soon as we put away the holiday decorations. Here’s what awaits us in the new year:
Elections: Of course the topic of elections is first on my mind and while the election calendar for next year isn’t as chaotic as 2024 will be, it’s going to be a lot. This isn’t anywhere near fully comprehensive but the election dates I’m tracking are:
February to March - State elections in Uttar Pradesh, India
March 9 - South Korea
April 10 and 24 - France
May 3 - Ohio Primary (Open Senate race)
May 9 - Philippines
May 17 - North Carolina and Pennsylvania Primaries (Open Senate races)
May 21 (On or before) - Australia
May 24 - Alabama and Georgia Primaries (AL open Senate race, GA Warnock defending seat)
June 14 - Nevada Primary (Cortez Masto defending Senate seat)
August 2 - Arizona and Missouri Primaries (AZ Kelly defending Senate seat, MO open Senate race)
August 9 - Wisconsin Primary (Will Ron Johnson run?)
August 9 - Kenya
September 13 - New Hampshire Primary (Hassan defending Senate seat)
October 2 and 30 - Brazil
November 8 - United States Midterms
Within these elections, I have all sorts of questions and concerns about how they will be conducted and in particular what the tech platforms will be doing to protect the integrity of those elections. Things I’m watching include:
Politician content: How will the tech companies handle candidates who deny the 2020 election was legitimate? Will any candidates get de-platformed for their actions and rhetoric? How will news organizations handle this? What does the Facebook Oversight Board rule about the cross-check system and how does that affect this?
Confusion around redistricting: With the lines being drawn so much later than usual we could see primaries moved - like we already have with North Carolina - and a lot of confusion for people about why they might be voting in different districts or precincts. With trust in the electoral process already low, how do we ensure these changes don’t make it worse?
Political and Issue Ads: Do we see more platforms decide to just not allow any political or issue ads at all? Will there be any bans on ads like there were in 2020 both before and after the elections? Do we see programmatic advertising or other online ad formats that don’t have transparency efforts be exploited more? Does regulation in Europe affect what political advertisers can do here?
The emergence of new platforms: What role do platforms like Clubhouse and Twitter spaces play on the campaign trail? Is TikTok used more? Will Facebook still be the main way campaigns raise money and build email lists? How is text messaging and email exploited and tracked? What role do podcasts play? Is ephemeral content the new battleground for exploitation by bad actors?
Impact of regulation: Are opposition and minority voices silenced more due to bad laws passed in other countries? Do governments put more pressure on tech companies to take down or leave content up?
Effort by tech companies overseas: What efforts from the 2020 elections will the tech companies be doing not just in the midterms, but overseas? If Bolsonaro denies he lost the elections will his content be labeled like Trump’s was? What product resources are the companies dedicating to building classifiers and doing investigations to proactively find problematic content.
Facebook’s Election Commission: Ryan Mac at the New York Times said this was being considered but we haven’t heard anything since then. This could still happen.
Facebook’s research on the 2020 election: This was supposed to come out this past summer but was pushed to 2022. The findings from this could come too late to make any changes for the midterms.
I’m sure there’s a lot more that I’ll be watching as 2022 unfolds. If you want one good read for today, Politico published this great look ahead memo on the 2022 midterms from Doug Sosnik at Brunswick.
Regulation/Tech Policy: In addition to all things elections I’ll also be keeping a close eye on where regulation goes in 2022. I think in the US there might be some more hearings and bills introduced early on in the year, but once summer hits we’ll be in full-blown election mode. I don’t expect anything to pass. Europe is another story. I do expect to see the legislation from the European Parliament get finalized next year as well as potentially the UK online safety bill. They just released their report on the bill this week that is worth a read. As I wrote the other week, it’s worth keeping an eye on what happens overseas as it could end up becoming what the platforms implement here.
The Winter Olympics and Supreme Court decisions are also on top of mind for me next year. We likely will have all the Facebook docs from this Fall released to the public. All could end up being very impactful events on the political stage as countries diplomatically boycott the Olympics and the court rules on cases that could impact Roe vs Wade. So buckle up, it’s going to be one hell of a year.
What I’m Reading
Knight First Amendment Institute: A Standard for Universal Digital Ad Transparency
New York Times: Now in Your Inbox: Political Misinformation
Michael Slaby: Data-driven, data-represented