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How Democrats' victory helps Facebook

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The Democrats have retaken the House of Representatives. If you're a social media company concerned b
 
November 7 · Issue #242 · View online
The Interface
The Democrats have retaken the House of Representatives. If you’re a social media company concerned both about your public image and the . threat of regulation, is this a good thing or a bad thing?
On the good side, the regulatory environment looks … favorable? A divided Congress means that few major bills are likely to make it to the president’s desk, leaving the status quo more or less as is. Better still, we will likely be spared any more Congressional hearings on the case of Diamond and Silk, or on any other voices claiming to have been “censored” because their organic reach is slipping.
That said, a national data privacy law — one that would almost be certainly weaker than California’s, which it would supercede — seems at least theoretically possible. Tech companies want it very much, and so does California Democrat Ro Khanna, who won re-election last night. He may find an ally of sorts in the Republican-controlled Senate, Makena Kelly writes at The Verge, even if she’s likely to water the bill down significantly:
But something like Khanna’s bill would need to move through the Senate before landing on the president’s desk. Republicans still have the majority in that chamber, so any tough Democratic privacy bills from the House will be met with the GOP’s general skepticism regarding regulation. Leadership elections will also shake up the members on important commerce committees. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) won her bid for the Senate last night, and after chairing the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on tech this past term, her new energy will likely be brought to the corresponding body in the Senate. Last year, Blackburn put forth her own light-touch privacy legislation, and any bill that passes through the House will likely be brought in front of her before it passes the Senate.
Also on the positive side, if you’re a social media company: I expect we’ll see gradually less attention paid to misinformation, at least before the presidential campaign ramps up next year. Democrats’ victory cuts against the notion that hyper-partisan posts on social sites swayed the election, no matter how numerous they continued to be. Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube aren’t close to solving this problem, but for now they can say that their efforts to date are working — buying them some time, and some cover, to do more.
What should social media platforms watch out for? Well, there’s the increasing polarization of the country, to which they may be contributing, and which could ultimately lead more people to abandon their apps. (Already I feel like I meet someone every day who tells me they recently deleted the Facebook app, or Instagram, or Twitter.) That would have happened no matter who won, but with Democrats investigating the Trump administration across many dimensions, I expect the coming partisan battles to be especially pitched.
A bigger concern may be complacency. The Democrats’ victory brings a vital check on the power of the ruling party’s more authoritarian impulses, and everyone has earned a much-needed sigh of relief. But bad actors will continue to find new ways to exploit the platforms, and so the platforms will have to remain vigilant about the ways their work is being misused.
On the whole, though, I’d say the tech platforms had a very good night.

Democracy
Zuckerberg rebuffs request to appear before UK parliament
Facebook delays identity checks on UK political advertisers
Facebook blocks more fake accounts from Russian troll group
Officials see no sign of security breaches in midterm votes
Russia Seen Adopting New Tactics in U.S. Election Interference Efforts
Forget the Russians. On this election day, it’s Americans peddling disinformation and hate speech.
Facebook, Google tools reveal new political ad tactics
Elsewhere
Facebook, Google Are Election Ad Winners Despite Meddling Outcry
Players of Samantha Bee’s mobile game have reported over 800 instances of voter suppression
Why Do Twitter Users Tag Partners in Their Bios?
Facebook blocks racist Trump ad, but the damage is already done
Launches
Facebook’s unsend feature will give you 10 minutes to delete a message
Facebook’s GraphQL gets its own open-source foundation
Microsoft is ramping out its rollout of its Kaizala group-communications app
Takes
Why the Google Walkout Was a Watershed Moment in Tech
And finally ...
The Voting Sticker Thirst Trap Is Here
Talk to me
Send me tips, comments, questions and your election-related thirst traps: casey@theverge.com.
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