Digital Technology, Social Media and the 2020 Presidential Election


Since the 2016 election, great attention has been paid to the impact of digital technologies on democracy in the United States and around the world. Foreign intervention into the U.S. campaign through social media and online advertising, including the rise of "fake news" and computational propaganda, exacerbated concerns that new technologies posed a substantial threat to the normal workings of the U.S. electoral process. These concerns remain for 2020, alongside new threats related to the COVID-19 pandemic. With in-person campaigning, voter mobilization, and even voting itself hindered by the pandemic, digital technologies promise to play an even more important role in 2020.

On December 10, 2020, the Stanford Cyber Policy Center brought together scholars, tech platforms, principals from the digital campaigns, journalists, and other key experts to explore the effect of digital technologies on the 2020 Election. The conference explored the role of digital technologies on election administration, campaign tactics, political advertising, the news media, foreign propaganda efforts, and the broader campaign information ecosystem. It also considered how changes in platform policies affected the campaign and information environment, and whether lessons learned in the 2020 elections suggest that further changes are warranted.