Discover more from Anchor Change with Katie Harbath
Rethinking assumptions and blazing new trails
Why I'm starting my own newsletter
Today marks the six-month anniversary of my leaving Facebook after ten years. Going out on my own was a terrifying step, and when trying to decide what I would name my LLC, I went through many different iterations. I ended up choosing Anchor Change because anchor refers to providing a solid foundation and change exudes a sense of growth.
I really liked the polarity of those two words and felt that it was the perfect description for the type of mentality needed when thinking about the future of technology and democracy. We need to keep re-thinking our old assumptions, we need to make changes and we need to establish new foundations to sustain us for years going forward.
That was reinforced yet again this week when Jeff Horwitz and team launched their series of articles called “The Facebook Files.”
At about 2 am the day after the first story came out I was unable to sleep as I couldn’t stop thinking about all the different decisions and tradeoffs that went into that system. It’s similar to a lot of thinking I’ve been doing since I left Facebook. I was trying to be objective and think about what I would have done differently. I find that I work through these problems best not sitting alone, but having a robust debate with people. It’s one of the things I miss most about working with the former Civic Integrity team at Facebook.
This is why I’m starting a newsletter where I can rethink my assumptions and try to blaze some new paths forward.
For nearly two decades now I’ve preached the sermon about how we want politicians to be online. I still think a lot of it is right - but we also need changes.
Stories like Jeff’s and many others show the difficulty and hard trade-offs that happen every day in these companies.
Ninety-nine percent of the time everyone’s intentions are good. Execution? Another story.
I’ve been a part of the good, bad, and ugly. I shared with former colleagues this week about how since leaving Facebook I find myself wondering how do I separate out those things I had control over versus those where I was just trying to make the best out of what was asked of me and the resources given?
At the same time, we could identify many of the problems but couldn’t solve all of them at once. Impossible tradeoffs were made and stories like Jeff’s examine those tensions.
At the end of the day, none of it is an easy answer as it’s all interwoven. Some of you are going to dismiss me for the pure fact I worked at Facebook. My background before that just adds fuel to your fire. That’s ok and I understand that.
But another way to look at it is that I’m someone who over the last 18 years has seen and been through some stuff and is trying to make sense of it all. I think some of the decisions were correct. I think some will be wrong. Some may be the right decision but we should have executed it differently. These are the conversations we need to be having to know how to move forward.
Sometime in this pandemic I read “Think Again” by Adam Grant. I loved this book as he rethought his preconceived notions about many things - including politics. We could all use a dose of this now.
If you don’t know me or want to know what I’m up to now you can read my bio here. If you want to see the list of over 50 stories from this summer that I was watching click here. (Side note: It was a really busy summer.) It also includes my chart on comparing coffee setups and why I’m apparently using emojis wrong at age 40.
You can also see some of my tweets on that Monday WSJ story here. Though in all honesty read my former colleague Samidh’s thread - he’s much more eloquent. I hope to do a lot more here than just what I put on Twitter, but it gives you a sense of my thinking and approach.
I find myself in a position where I feel like I have a lot to work through and say - so this newsletter is more for me than any of you. (Though I very much appreciate the sign-ups) My plan is that every week I’ll share either my thoughts on a story of the week or go bigger picture on one of the many broad issues facing tech and democracy.
My anxiety is already high not just for this Fall but for the next three and a half years. I’ll give you my pitch about the electoral tsunami of 2024 in a future newsletter, but some other things keeping me awake include:
Redistricting will start now that state legislatures have the Census data they need. However, given the delay in getting the data as well as concerns around some new privacy protections I see a mess brewing. For more on this checkout Hansi Lo Wang’s NPR story that states, “based on early tests, many data users are alarmed that the new privacy protections could render some of the new census statistics useless.”
Off-year elections such as the California Recall, Virginia, and New Jersey will be some early tests of the confidence people have in elections after 2020. How do elections in Germany, Canada, and Japan go?
As more candidates start campaigning for the 2022 midterms will any of them end up getting removed by one of the major platforms? Will that impact the races or not.
What happens to tech regulation? Will the House antitrust bills get floor debate and a vote? What happens in Canada, the UK, Europe, and other places considering regulation? How does India enforce the regulation it put into place earlier this year?
Brazil. Not only is the Supreme Court investigating Bolsonaro but he recently banned social media companies for removing content and the Congress is considering legislation to ban monetization of political content during an election period. With their elections in October of 2022, it’s a space to watch.
And this is just my top five. There will be no shortage of things to discuss.
Please send me feedback, criticisms, alternative viewpoints, etc. All of it helps me to rethink my old assumptions, decide what is still valid vs what needs changing, and how we blaze new paths forward. I really appreciate your reading.
What I’m reading
NOTE: I hope each week to share some of the stories I’m most interested in. To be honest, most of this week has been taken up by the WSJ series so there’s just one today!
NYT: Under G.O.P. Pressure, Tech Giants Are Empowered by Election Agency- Keep an eye on this space. These rulings could give tech companies more cover to do certain things to one candidate and not their opponent. Need to see the actual rulings though which haven’t been released yet.
I regularly get asked to either give advice to people looking for jobs and to also share opportunities. That’s what this space will be for. Two roles that have caught my attention this week.
Aspen Institute, Director, Aspen Cybersecurity Group: This is a role on Garrett Graff’s team running the high-profile, high-impact Aspen Cybersecurity Group, the nation's leading closed-door forum on cyber and emerging tech.