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POL 58 — Technology and the 2020 Election: How Silicon Valley Technologies Impact Our Elections and Shape Our Democracy

Quarter: Fall
Day(s): Wednesdays
Course Format: Live Online (About Formats)
Duration: 8 weeks
Date(s): Sep 23—Nov 11
Time: 5:30—7:00 pm (PT)
Drop Deadline: Sep 25
Unit: 1
Grade Restriction: No letter grade
Tuition: $350
Status: Open
Please Note: This course has a different schedule than what appears in the print catalogue. The course will meet over 8 Wednesdays, beginning on September 23 and ending on November 11. In addition, some of our refund deadlines have changed. See this course's drop deadline above and click here for the full policy.
Live Online(About Formats)
5:30—7:00 pm (PT)
Sep 23—Nov 11
8 weeks
Drop By
Sep 25
1 Unit
Grade Restriction
No letter grade
Please Note: This course has a different schedule than what appears in the print catalogue. The course will meet over 8 Wednesdays, beginning on September 23 and ending on November 11. In addition, some of our refund deadlines have changed. See this course's drop deadline above and click here for the full policy.
Students are eligible for a 20% tuition discount if they enroll in both POL 58: “Technology and the 2020 Election" and POL 57: “Election 2020: A Panoramic View of America's Decisive Election." Students will receive an email receipt when the refund is issued. Please allow one week for processing.

Course Description:

The 2020 US presidential election season will be historic, taking place amid a global pandemic, an upended economy, mass protests, and extreme polarization. While these crises grab the headlines, another force will quietly but no less inexorably shape this coming election: the digital tools and platforms born right here in Silicon Valley. With the help of expert guests, this course will examine the unprecedented influence of technology on America’s democratic process, revealing how an array of digital technologies will affect the election: technologies of the voting booth and reporting results; online filter bubbles, echo chambers, and polarization; amplification and content moderation of political candidates; online political advertising and microtargeting; manipulation, misinformation, and disinformation; the US in global perspective; and tech policy approaches.

This course will seek to draw lessons and insights about the legitimate and illegitimate uses of technology in the 2020 election and take stock of the health of American democracy. We will also explore questions about a tech policy agenda in a Trump or Biden administration. By the end of the course, students will have a deeper appreciation for the multifaceted ways in which Silicon Valley technologies shape American political life and, through their global reach, democratic societies everywhere. We will also consider how these forces can be better managed, if not harnessed, for the public good.

Confirmed Guest Speakers:

Joan Donovan, Research Director, Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School

Evelyn Douek, Lecturer on Law and Doctoral Candidate, Harvard Law School

Tiana Epps-Johnson, Founder and Executive Director, Center for Technology and Civic Life

Camille Francois
, Research Affiliate, Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, Harvard; Chief Innovation Officer, Graphika

Ryan Heath, Senior Editor, POLITICO

David Kaye
, UN special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression

Lina Khan, Associate Professor of Law, Columbia Law School

Michael McFaul, Director, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies; Ken Olivier and Angela Nomellini Professor of International Studies, Department of Political Science, Stanford; Peter and Helen Bing Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford

H.R. McMaster, 26th United States National Security Advisor; Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford

Roger McNamee, Author of Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe

Nathaniel Persily, Co-Director, Stanford Cyber Policy Center; James B. McClatchy Professor of Law, Stanford; Former Senior Research Director for the Bipartisan Presidential Commission on Election Administration

Nick Pickles, Global Head, Public Policy Strategy and Development, Twitter

Matt Rivitz, Founder, Sleeping Giants

Alex Stamos, Director, Stanford Internet Observatory; Former Chief Security Officer, Facebook

Joshua Tucker, Professor of Politics, NYU

Heidi Tworek, Associate Professor of History and Public Policy, The University of British Columbia

Shoshana Zuboff, Author of The Age of Surveillance Capitalism; Professor Emerita, Harvard Business School

Course Instructors:

Rob Reich, Professor of Political Science and, by courtesy, Professor of Philosophy and of Education, Stanford

Rob Reich is the director of the Center for Ethics in Society and an associate director of the Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence. His most recent book is Just Giving: Why Philanthropy Is Failing Democracy and How It Can Do Better.

Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director, Cyber Policy Center; International Policy Fellow, Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence, Stanford

Marietje Schaake is the president of the CyberPeace Institute. From 2009 through 2019 Schaake was a Member of European Parliament for the Dutch Liberal Democratic Party where she focused on trade, foreign affairs, and technology policies. As a member of the Global Commission on the Stability of Cyberspace, and founder of the European Parliament Intergroup on the European Digital Agenda, Schaake develops solutions to strengthen the rule of law online, including initiating the net neutrality law now in effect throughout Europe. Schaake was recently featured in The New Yorker, where she discusses the regulation of big tech in Silicon Valley.

Please note: This course will be recorded by Stanford Continuing Studies. Student names, voices, and images will not be included in the recording. Students enrolled in the course will have access to the video recording of the class meeting within their Canvas account viewable for the duration of the course. We anticipate posting these videos to the course page in Canvas within a day of the class meeting. Some guest lectures may not be recorded at the request of the guest speaker. Students may not make their own recording of any class content. Stanford also reserves the right to distribute the recordings outside of the class and to the public.

The content expressed are those of the speakers and course participants and do not necessarily represent the views of Stanford University.

This course is designed for the entire Stanford community; Continuing Studies students will be joined by Stanford Pre-Collegiate Studies students, and Stanford graduates and undergraduates.