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Stanford University

How Technology is Shaping Democracy and the 2020 Election

Stanford University via Coursera


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Democracy can only thrive with the participation of well-informed citizens. The 2020 U.S. presidential election will be historic for many reasons and all parties are leveraging the power of technology to both influence and mobilize voters. More than ever, digital tools and platforms are shaping the opinions and behaviors of voters who will determine the future of the governance of the United States. This new course examines the unprecedented influence of technology and technology policy on America’s elections and democratic process and takes a close look at how a public sphere plagued by polarization, online filter bubbles, a lack of transparency in content moderation policies, and foreign and domestic misinformation and disinformation campaigns, impacts our ability to be well-informed citizens. In this short-form, community awareness course, you will: – Learn how U.S. elections work and about the challenges of implementing new technology – Explore the dynamics of driving voter registration and casting a vote during a pandemic – Examine the role social media platforms play in our ability to maintain a healthy public discourse – See how these digital tools and filters help shape our beliefs, preferences, and convictions as citizens and how they can grow and diminish the agency of individuals, movements, governments, and foreign entities – Understand complex technology policy questions that affect content moderation Be more than a voter. Register now and become an advocate for a healthier democracy.


  • Introduction
    • Instructors Rob Reich and Marietje Schaake present the major themes and questions explored in this community awareness course on democracy, technology, and the 2020 election.
  • Election Administration in the COVID-19 Era
    • Understand the current, decentralized election system in the United States and consider the challenges election jurisdictions face to implement new technologies and administer elections amidst challenging circumstances. Featured guests include Tiana Epps-Johnson, co-founder and executive director of the Center for Tech and Civic Life, and Nate Persily, Stanford Law Professor and co-director of the Stanford Cyber Policy Center.
  • Technology and the Digital Public Sphere
    • Explore the uses of technology tools and platforms that influence the public sphere of information, and see how these digital tools shape the beliefs of citizens and how they grow and diminish the agency of individuals, movements, governments, and foreign entities. Featured guests include Joan Donovan, research director at the Shorenstein Center of Media, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School, and Joshua Tucker, professor of politics at NYU, and co-director of the NYU Center for Social Media and Politics.
  • Where Speech and Tech Policy Collide
    • Discover the tensions and trade-offs between the content moderation policies of technology companies, the growing calls to govern speech in the public sphere, and the challenges to creating effective public policies to address these issues. Featured guests include Evelyn Douek, a lecturer and S.J.D. candidate at Harvard Law School, and Nick Pickles, global head of public policy strategy and development at Twitter.
  • Confronting Misinformation and Disinformation
    • Learn what is different between the 2016 and 2020 U.S. election cycles in how institutions are actively confronting disinformation and misinformation campaigns, and better understand the complexity of addressing foreign versus domestic information actors in a free society. Featured guests include Alex Stamos, director of the Stanford Internet Observatory and former chief security officer at Facebook, and Camille François, chief innovation officer at Graphika.

Taught by

Rob Reich and Marietje Schaake


4.3 rating at Coursera based on 64 ratings

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