Should private companies decide what politician people will hear about? How can tech policy make our democracy stronger? What is the role of social media and journalism in an increasingly polarized society? Katie Harbath, a former director for global elections at Facebook discusses these questions in a lecture about politics, policy and democracy. Her unparalleled experience as a political operative combined with her decade long experience working on political elections across the globe make her a leading intellectual voice to shape the future of civic engagement online. In her lecture to honor the legacy of former Wisconsin State senator Paul Offner she shares historical context on the evolution of technology and presidential election campaigns. She also talks about the impact of the 2016 election and the post-truth reality online that came with the election of Donald Trump. In her concluding remarks she offers some ideas for future regulations of technology to strengthen civic integrity as well as our democracy and she answers questions during her Q&A.
As social media companies face growing scrutiny among lawmakers and the general public, the La Follette School of Public Affairs at University of Wisconsin–Madison welcomed Katie Harbath, a former global public policy director at Facebook for the past 10 years, for a livestreamed public presentation. Harbath’s presentation focused on her experiences and thoughts on the future of social media, especially how tech companies are addressing civic integrity issues such as free and hate speech, misinformation and political advertising.
Make sure to watch the full lecture titled Politics and Policy: Democracy in the Digital Age at https://lafollette.wisc.edu/outreach-public-service/events/politics-and-policy-democracy-in-the-digital-age (or below)
03:04 – Opening remarks by Susan Webb Yackee
05:19 – Introduction of the speaker by Amber Joshway
06:59 – Opening remarks by Katie Harbath
08:24 – Historical context of tech policy
14:39 – The promise of technology and the 2016 Facebook Election
17:31 – 2016 Philippine presidential election
18:55 – Post-truth politics and the era of Donald J. Trump
20:04 – Social media for social good
20:27 – 2020 US presidential elections
22:52 – The Capitol attacks, deplatforming and irreversible change
23:49 – Legal aspects of tech policy
24:37 – Refresh Section 230 CDA and political advertising
26:03 – Code aspects of tech policy
28:00 – Developing new social norms
30:41 – More diversity, more inclusion, more openness to change
33:24 – Tech policy has no finishing line
34:48 – Technology as a force for social good and closing remarks
(Click on the question to watch the answer)
1. In a digitally democratized world how can consumers exercise their influence over companies to ensure that online platforms are free of bias?
2. What should we expect from the congressional hearing on disinformation?
3. Is Facebook a platform or a publisher?
4. Is social media going to help us to break the power of money in politics?
4. How have political campaigns changed over time?
5. What is the relationship between social media and the ethics of journalism?
6. Will the Oversight Board truly impact Facebook’s content policy?
7. How is Facebook handling COVID-19 related misinformation?
8. What is Facebook’s approach to moderating content vs encryption/data privacy?
9. Does social media contribute to social fragmentation (polarization)? If so, how can social media be a solution for reducing polarization?
10. What type of regulation should we advocate for as digitally evolving voters?
11. What are Katies best and worst career memories? What’s next for Katie post Facebook?
Last but not least: Katie mentioned a number of books (and a blog) as a recommended read that I will list below:
- Code: And Other Laws of Cyberspace by Lawrence Lessig
- Mistrust: Why Losing Faith in Institutions Provides the Tools to Transform Them by Ethan Zuckerman
- Stratechery by Ben Thompson
- Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know by Adam Grant
- Untamed by Glennon Doyle
- The Filter Bubble: How the New Personalized Web Is Changing What We Read and How We Think by Eli Pariser
- Why We’re Polarized by Ezra Klein