The 2020 presidential election was always going to be a pivotal moment for our country. Then the Covid-19 pandemic’s human and economic tolls raised the stakes. The pandemic also accelerated a shift that was already happening: It made technology an even bigger factor in the future of our democracy.
Some of this won’t surprise you. In 2016, as then-presidential contender Donald Trump amassed attention and supporters on his way to the White House, Americans on both sides of the political aisle started grasping in real time how powerful a tool the internet is for politicians and their supporters. We also realized that nefarious actors, many of them linked to foreign governments, were exploiting major online platforms like Facebook and Twitter to spread misinformation, exacerbate political tensions, and interfere with the United States’ electoral process.
In the four years since, tech companies and their leaders have pledged to be better prepared in 2020, and to prevent their platforms and tools from being used to mess with our democracy. But that’s a daunting task. Tech companies are still lagging behind in an ever-evolving situation, and election misinformation keeps spreading. On top of all that, the pandemic has created a host of unforeseen challenges as in-person campaigning has shifted almost entirely online and as more Americans than ever before are expected to vote by mail.
Open Sourced’s Future of the Vote project explores the consequences of our political world’s inextricable links to the tech world and explains what you should watch out for online ahead of November 3.
—Samantha Oltman, Recode editor